Swiping Left on “Mo Bamba”: What I Learned through Tinder’s Music Feature

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

This article was written by Patricia Kusumaningtyas sometime around eight months ago, during a confusing time in her life. Thankfully, after going through three first dates—one of them resulting in a confusing 4-month “what are we”-type relationship with someone who puts Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” as his anthem—she is now off Tinder.

I joined Tinder a few days ago—rejoined, actually, since I’m on and off that app. Most likely because I’m starting to get bored again. (Granted, since nothing occupies your mind better than interesting strangers, all with a very limited amount of information about them revealed to us.)

That’s the way it is with dating apps: You try to summarize your entire self with a few photos and a bio, and you determine your attraction to a stranger by only a few parameters. Interestingly, these parameters include an API supported by Spotify for you to include some of your favorite music. Tinder allows you to pick an “anthem”—a song that will be highlighted in your profile—and lets you display some of your top artists as gathered by Spotify data. You can choose whatever fits you as your anthem (as long as your selected song is available on Spotify), but it’s harder to lie about your displayed top artists. For this section, Tinder gathers your Spotify top artists based on your non-incognito listening history—the more technical explanation of this gathering process is elaborated here. So, unless you put your Spotify in incognito mode, every single one of your plays will be accumulated and evaluated into a list that you can choose to display on Tinder.

This API is where the bias began. Since I am a big music fan, I consider this section to be important in my decision of swiping right or left. I always swipe right on people who enjoy the same kind of music as I do and swipe left on people who enjoy the music I hate. However, it gets more complicated than that. Further, in my experiences, I find myself swiping left all boys who put “Mo Bamba” or “SICKO MODE” as their anthem, and I always swipe right on boys who put on anthems by emotionally affecting indie musicians such as Sufjan Stevens or Rex Orange County. And, if you ask me why, I will give you a very abstract answer; something along the lines of “I think we won’t stand each other.”

If I were to construct a definite answer on why the Spotify-Tinder API is so important, I would admit that it is an important glimpse inside a Tinder user’s personality. However, the caveat is that judging Tinder users by their music could pigeonhole them into stereotypes. The reason for this could be that popular music itself is already compartmentalized; there are different markets for different types of music. The market for an artist like, say, Florence and the Machine is completely different compared to the market for an artist like Travis Scott. Sure, there might be some people who are super-fans of both Florence Welch and Travis Scott, but we assume that that intersection is very small.

And, sometimes there are stereotypes of personalities attached to music genres. Going through the thought processing I did when deciding to swipe right or swipe left, I find myself clinging to these stereotypes. When I found a guy who likes “Mo Bamba” or “SICKO MODE,” I think about how the songs are heavily stereotyped to white frat guys who like to party, as enforced by the memes that came out of it. Thinking of this, I swipe left. Same deal with people who put Rex Orange County, Boy Pablo, and Mac Demarco; they’ve been stereotyped as the sadboi types who could be more in touch with their emotions, or, on the other hand, be more of an elitist towards their music taste. When it comes to less-stereotyped artists, I look to the content of their music choices. I tend to swipe right on boys who are into Lorde or Mitski since they’re artists who bear a lot of emotions in their music, which means that these boys are likely to do the same. I tend to swipe left on people who put musicians like Chris Brown or Robin Thicke—musicians who are widely known to incorporate sexist lyrics in their music or their own actions—thinking that these people look up to them. Through Tinder, I let a few songs/musicians make my decision to swipe left or right. Or is it my preconceived stereotypes that make that decision for me?

So, a question for all of us is: Do we let a few of our top artists define who we are? With Tinder, there is no choice. You have to make a quick decision based on the very limited information you choose to display on your profile, so you have to process this information wisely. This information makes me think that these people might put “Mo Bamba” and “SICKO MODE” as their profile anthem to gather more girls who like to party, and makes me want to put in Lorde or Mitski in my profile. Or maybe it’s just a part of their personality?

This makes me think of my own profile. I would say that my current profile accurately reflects my music taste. My anthem is a song that’s been stuck in my head for months—”Age of Adz” by Sufjan Stevens—and my top artists comprise of my favorite artists. It’s all genuine. I didn’t try to skew my listening stats or make my music to cater to a specific stereotype; I’m pretty happy with it. So far no one who matched with me has commented on my music taste, but I feel really great about my music profile. However, I still put my vigilant, skeptic attitude towards evaluating other people’s music profiles. I know I have to learn to let go of these preconceived judgments, and as I view my music profile as a good reflection of my own self, I should view others the same way.

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