I should have never gone out with Greg based on how he texted. He sent a message to confirm plans — 8 p.m. at a dive called Birdy’s — and expected a prompt reply. When I was unable to provide one in the middle of a workday, he couldn’t sit with the silence for more than an hour before following up with a “wah, wah.” If that was an edited version of him, I knew the director’s cut wouldn’t be great. But I kept the Tinder date the way you keep an interview for a job you don’t want — for the practice.
In that regard, it was a lot like a job interview at an ad agency in the 1960s because he showed up drunk. That said, it wasn’t the worst date in the history of internet dates. Rather, it was like most dates: two drinks, affable enough conversation, a dozen long-stemmed red flags and, unfortunately, no love connection. When he asked about a second date the following day, I responded honestly: He was a great guy, but I wasn’t feeling it and didn’t want to lead him on. I also told him that I hoped he met someone great in the future.
“That’s totally fine, and same to you,” he replied, taking it so well I almost felt bad.
Before I could even put my phone away, however, there was a ding and another text bubble: “But to be honest, you probably shouldn’t be so picky.”
Then, a minute later: “You’re barely a 6, even after a few drinks.”
And three minutes after that: “You’re not even as hot as my last three ex-girlfriends.”
That was that. Like many a Proud Boy, George Zimmerman and numerous catfishers before me, I had been banned from Tinder. It turns out, though, I’m far from the only woman to have been kicked off the app for no other reason than I rejected the wrong guy. Indeed, without the need for any apparent proof of wrongdoing, a new breed of scorned men have stumbled upon a particularly passive-aggressive way to say, “If I can’t have her, no one can” — tapping the report button.
Case in point: Last year, 33-year-old Amy declined to go out with a man she’d been messaging with when he started insulting her. The insults, of course, only intensified from there — with him telling her she was shaped like Slimer from Ghostbusters and that her fertility was declining. Stunned, she put her phone away. After taking a moment, she went to block him, but when she opened Tinder, her account had been banned. Like me, she assumed that it was an easily correctable mistake. But when she reached out to Tinder to correct the issue, she was met with the same exact response as I was.
“I have no proof because Tinder refuses to release any information, but I strongly believe the person who got me banned was the same person who was stalking me on other sites,” Amy tells me. That is, within a few days of the Ghostbusters exchange, her Tinder troll had popped up on OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, too, to call her a “whore,” which is when it clicked that he may have been the one who reported her to Tinder. “I sent the screenshots of everything to Tinder asking if he got me banned, but they refused to answer any questions.”
To protest her ban, Amy created the Twitter account Why Tinder Banned Me and started retweeting women with the same story: They cut off a guy and were almost immediately banned from the app without any recourse.
“I believe it was my ex who reported me. Because about a week after seeing his profile on Tinder, I was banned,” 24-year-old Sarah explains. “I think he found out I was on it, made an account and then found me just to report me. I emailed Tinder, but they said there was no way for me to argue my case. Once you’re banned, that’s it — there’s no warning, there’s no verifying the claim, you’re just done.”
“It’s very obvious that my ex reported me,” adds 23-year-old Kelly, who provided documentation of her ex’s harassment to me. “I was very polite to all of my matches, and I never violated any community guidelines. But I swiped left on him the other day, and he must’ve seen me on his feed and reported me. A person doesn’t need to be your match to report you on Tinder.” (Kelly also received a screenshot from her now-blocked ex’s Instagram Story about how she can’t hook up with a guy if she can’t meet him first.)
That said, as much as the timing and patterns suggest we were reported by men we turned down, none of us know for certain that is why we were banned. Tinder never replied to my multiple requests for comment, and I deleted Greg’s number before I realized what had happened, so I couldn’t ask him directly.
Some of the possible scenarios where I could have been in violation of Tinder’s community guidelines included nudity or sexual content, but there weren’t any tasteful nudes exchanged. Nor was there any harassment, violence, physical harm or hate speech. Same for me sharing any of his personal information (like his social security number). All that was left then was solicitation, prostitution, trafficking, scamming, impersonation, being underage, copyright and trademark infringement, promoting illegal activity, sharing an account with more than one person, using third-party apps and/or having a dormant account for at least two years. Which, honestly, sounded like sweet relief compared to being a grown woman trying to convince a customer service representative named Bobby that I wasn’t a threat to Tinder users.
I did, though, find one man — 26-year-old Brian — who admitted to reporting women who were unresponsive to his messages. “I’ve done this,” he confides. “It’s a huge waste of time for girls to match with you and then not reply. Like what’s the point?” He adds that attractive women on dating apps have had everything handed to them and become too entitled as a result. To him, they treat Tinder like a game — at the expense of men such as himself. “It’s mostly bragging rights for them: ‘Look how many matches I got! I’m going to ghost them all!’ It’s such a toxic echo chamber from the guy’s perspective.” (Brian’s sentiments echo that of incels, a group of men who believe they’re entitled to sex, and blame the fact that women are now more economically independent, and empowered for not having more of it — or any for that matter.)
This isn’t the only way Tinder’s reporting feature has been abused either. Many other people have reportedly been banned for reasons that have nothing to do with terms and conditions — e.g., disclosing that they have herpes, identifying as transgender, or in the strangely specific case of 32-year-old Nichole, posting a picture with a dead deer during hunting season. (She was able to confirm who reported her because the man reached out to her employer to get her fired as well; I guess he really loved that deer.)
Other dating apps like Bumble and Hinge have a similar function for the safety of their users, but it doesn’t seem to be abused to such an extent. It’s difficult to say if that’s a result of Tinder’s larger user base, a lack of oversight or a combination thereof; still, none of the women I spoke to had the same problem with them (nor did I).
It’s plausible that Tinder blanketly bans reported profiles based on an honor system because it doesn’t want to invest more resources in investigating flagged users. Essentially, it’s cheaper for customer service reps to offer the same company line: “We take violations very seriously. There is no appeal process. We cannot offer any more information at this time.”
In Nichole’s case, however, there was a cheat code to activating the appeal process — media attention. After talking to multiple customer service reps for months, all of whom told her that she was banned and there was nothing they could do about it, suddenly it was fixed. “Once the local and national news outlets began to ask them for a statement, they said the issue had been resolved,” she tells me. “But even though I was unbanned, I didn’t sign back up.”
I couldn’t help but agree. If Tinder were a dude, I didn’t want another date even if I had the chance — and technically, I did. Getting banned from Tinder is easy, but getting around the ban is even easier. The one thing people who are falsely and legitimately banned have in common is that all they have to do is create a new phone number on Google Voice to start swiping again, rendering the entire purpose of the feature meaningless.
Obviously, falsely reporting someone on Tinder isn’t the worst way men have lashed out in response to romantic rejection historically, but that doesn’t change the fact that something meant to protect dating app users can easily be used for the exact opposite. Not to mention, the eventual fallout from this trend will have men wondering where all the women on Tinder have gone.
To them, I will say, “Ask your buddies.”