Finding Love Using GIS

Mark Altaweel


Dating apps on smartphones have now become so ubiquitous that finding love in the 21st century seems to have become mainly an online affair. Smartphones have not only transformed our social habits, but perhaps one of the key changes is the integration of GPS data with virtually everything we do. In dating and dating apps, applications are becoming so common that merely locating a potential partner nearby is not sufficient.

OkCupid is one product that has gained significant market share by combining effective search functionality, where you can enter a variety of criteria for your potential match, and then utilize your location to see how many potential partners are near you relative to the search criteria.[1] The company even keeps tracks of its users broadcasted analytics so that you can be informed when someone is available or you can even “broadcast” to nearby singles about your availability.

Another application, Skout, allows you to search for different types of people around you and events as well, allowing you to use it not just for finding love but also simply joining social activity of interest wherever you go.[2]

Tinder[3] has been one of the better known apps used for dating. However, it has been criticized for over emphasis on using pictures, and thus emphasizing looks, as the driving force behind allowing its users to find matches. There has been a wave of new research looking at the social effects of these location-based dating apps. While dating apps generally market themselves as a way to make it easier to meet new people, tools such as Grindr and others can complicate meetings because intentionality of users is not always evident. In other words, users have different goals, where people online don’t always make their intentionality as clear, and the presence of many individuals in a nearby space can cloud selection and intent in meeting new people.

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Apps with greater emphasis on pictures rather than profiles, such as Grindr and Tinder, generally sexualize dating more than other apps that combine different features and search capacity outside of just image-oriented search.[4] Another finding suggest dating apps are more akin to entertainment, where users out of boredom or interest simply want to see who is around them.[5] The omnipresence of location, GIS functionality in mapping, and measuring potential dates near you, has had a substantial social change in the dating world.


[1] For more on OkCupid, see:

[2] For more on Skout, see:

[3] For more on Tinder, see:

[4] For more on a study of dating apps and how they affect dating, see:  Blackwell, C., Birnholtz, J. & Abbott, C. (2015) Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app. New Media & Society. [Online] 17 (7), 1117–1136.

[5] For more on this study, see:  Carpenter, C.J. & McEwan, B. (2016) The players of micro-dating: Individual and gender differences in goal orientations toward micro-dating apps. First Monday. [Online] 21 (5).


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About the author
Mark Altaweel
Mark Altaweel is a Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, having held previous appointments and joint appointments at the University of Chicago, University of Alaska, and Argonne National Laboratory. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.