The term “shadowban” gets thrown around a lot these days, and usually it is misused. Since I adopted or adapted the term early on in my Tinder guides, I feel at least partially responsible for the misconceptions around shadowbans, or at least for the widespread use of the term, so this is my attempt to clear those up.

What Is a Shadow-Ban?

A shadow-ban differs from a regular ban in that the banned user is not notified of any wrongdoing. A shadow-banned user’s account/app seems to be functioning properly, but they have been cut off from the network or from parts of it.

On forums like Reddit, this means the user can go on merrily posting and commenting their opinions, but nobody except them is able to see their contributions because the sub’s moderator has decided to basically mute them. The rationale behind this is to keep the undesirable user busy and blissfully unaware of their de facto ban, to keep them from just creating a new account and exhibiting the same behavior again that got them banned in the first place, thus creating work for the mods and an unpleasant experience for the community. The user may figure out what’s going on after some time of zero reactions to any of their posts or comments.

On Tinder, for similar reasons, a shadow-ban means the user becomes invisible to others on the app, but everything appears to be in order to them. They can still see and write to existing matches, and they can still swipe to their heart’s desire. They will just not get any new matches because their profile has been secretly hidden, probably for violating the unwritten rules of Tinder.

Prime reasons for getting shadow-banned on Tinder include spam-swiping right on everyone and trying to reset your account (and botching the procedure).

How to Tell if You’ve Been Shadow-Banned

Examples for a shadow-ban

  • Andy usually gets between 5-10 likes per day, and maybe one or two matches. He decides to start over, and resets his account. On his new account, he gets 0 (zero, not one, not three, zero.) matches or likes within the first week.
    Andy has been shadow-banned for trying to reset his account.
  • Bill, too, reset his account, but he did it properly and is getting dozens of likes on the first day, due to the noob boost effect. He decides to sign up for Tinder Platinum again, as he did previously, and uses the same google play account as he did before. Maybe he restores a running subscription. After this, he gets barely any likes for a few days, then none at all.
    Bill, too, has been shadowbanned for botching his reset by connecting to his old account. He might get some more likes or matches afterwards because his profile may have already been loaded into matches’ decks, but once those peter out – nothing.
  • Charlie has been on Tinder for a while and isn’t happy with the amount of matches he gets. One day, he snaps, and just right swipes 1000 profiles over the span of an hour while watching TV, just to see what he could get. A day or two later, he stops getting new matches and likes, similarly to Bill. He can still message the matches he has.
    Charlie has been shadow-banned for spamming right, something Tinder’s algorithm just really doesn’t like.

NOT examples for a shadow-ban

  • Dylan has been on Tinder for years. Over time, his daily matches have declined to a trickle, a shadow of the former stream he had gotten accustomed to. It seems every few months, his match rate takes serious hit of 30% or more. Dylan thinks he may have been shadowbanned. Maybe he goes on reddit to post about it. Maybe he reads about it on reddit while he tries to figure out what’s wrong.
    Dylan has not been shadow-banned. In fact, Dylan is just experiencing the new normal of Tinder for guys, and he’s comparing it to the glory days of old.
  • Elon decides to make a Tinder account, like all the cool kids do. He chooses some pictures, writes something in his bio, and starts swiping. He gets some few likes and matches initially, then after a few days or weeks, they slow to a trickle of maybe one like a week. Maybe he didn’t get any likes from the beginning. Elon decides to go on Reddit and air his frustration to the world, parroting something he read elsewhere about shadowbans and facial recognition and lizard men.
    Elon has not been shadowbanned. Elon is experiencing what it means to have a Tinder profile of average or below average attractiveness, especially without Tinder Platinum or boosts. It would behoove Elon to read The Ultimate SH Guide to Tinder to make his profile the best it can be and to give himself the best chance of finding what he’s looking for on Tinder.

Thank you for attending my TED talk. If you have something to add, please feel free to leave a comment below, or on r/swipehelper.