Has the Internet soured the art of dating? When it comes to dating apps, our demand for convenience may be outpacing our desire for genuine connection.
Back In The Day
Indicating romantic interest was once a bit of an art form. People used to have to be ardent about pursuing their romantic interests as the only way you could find out more about someone was to talk to them or associate with members of their personal network, i.e. their friends or family. This meant having not only the gall to present oneself to a stranger, but making a concerted effort to make a connection happen. Pre-digital dating required a special blend of personal communication and patience to be successful.
In the early 2000’s, the digital boom saw the rise of sites like eHarmony, OkCupid, and Match.com. Their tactics may have differed, but they paved the way for teaching singles to trust in the romantic possibilities the worldwide web had to offer. Glossy commercials playing Natalie Cole’s “Everlasting Love,” and animated dating questionnaires made people believe the process of shopping oneself around could be more fun through online engagement. Though the majority of daters still preferred meeting IRL, the OG sites were at least successful in bringing forth new waves of optimism about finding love online. The Internet dating phenomenon was created, and it was good.
As people’s needs shifted, technology followed suit. The popularity of smartphones led to the birth of mobile apps inevitably resulting in the creation of apps specific to, you guessed it, dating. Within just a few years, the websites of old gave birth to the apps of now and names like Grindr, Blendr and Tinder became commonplace as users downloaded and swiped their way through betas looking for a wide array of dating experiences. By 2015 these apps were the norm for daters and remain today’s standard in terms of meeting people online. But again, has all this advancement in mobile dating technology really led to increased satisfaction?
Dating By The Numbers
A past study carried out by the dating app Hinge, found “81% of its users had never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app.” Hinge further concluded that “54% of singles report feeling lonely after swiping on swiping apps,” and “Only 1 in 500 swipes on Hinge” turned into real phone number exchanges. A similar study done for Tinder users found the top 78% of women fighting over the top 20% of men (in terms of likes). Such narrow rates of real connection may make people feel disenfranchised or pressured to increase their chances of getting attention by feeling the need to embellish or lie on their profiles.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I have friends who have added inches to their height or used pictures with other people’s pets in their profiles. But while amusing, these tactics represent the lengths that some go through to cast a wider virtual net, exasperating the process further for those looking for genuine connections.
Aside from the picture of a face with a snippet below, how much do we really know about our online suitors? Swiping through an endless sea of faces can get tiring and going through the same “interview” process with all the candidates who seem sane enough to meet, can be time-consuming and expensive. Issa Rae’s HBO show Insecure accurately acknowledges and parodies the tedium factor well in its season two debut.
It’s also hard to say how effective these dating apps want themselves to be. In the end, these apps are a business and benefit from keeping users involved and profiles active. Flooding people with options not only represents a healthy app with plenty of active users but also ensures you may need quite a while to find that special person. Others have also figured out additional ways to bring money to the table. Apps like OkCupid capitalize on what some call the “creep” factor, allowing A-list users who pay a $20 monthly fee to see other user’s profiles without them knowing while normal users are tracked as visitors in each profile they click. Hinge has a hierarchy of membership pricing with subscriptions ranging from $4.99 to $12.99 per month depending on length of term.
Despite any and all talks of “dating app fatigue,” or “swipe sweat”, there are still many hopefuls who will continue to use dating apps. New York City alone has over 400,000 OkCupid users. Gay men and women have also been uniquely enabled by dating apps in terms of their ability to be selectively visible in spaces where it might not have been safe to do so previously.
App owners are also becoming more hip to the reality that the standard process has grown stale. Apps like Hinge and Happn are eager to offer up solutions to evolve the experience further. Hinge opted for a redesign that focused less on swiping and more on connecting users via questions and experiences. Happn is an app that encourages people to foster connections based on location, focusing on identifying users who might run in adjacent, if not the same, social circles, suggesting you and your potential match may have already crossed paths. Gay dating app Chappy has an interesting approach in allowing users to search for either “Mr. Right” or “Mr. Right now”, generating entirely different pools of potentials dependent on the user’s desire for a relationship or a casual encounter.
Overall, I believe these sites will continue to be used no matter how much dating ennui they inspire because single people in today’s world have been encouraged more and more to do something about their situation. Contrary to the days of old, being single is less of a social exercise. Individuals are more apt to sign up and start the process of finding a romantic interest on their own instead of relying on their friends or family and even if solid connections aren’t being made via these apps, they still give many hope that someone is right around the corner, just one swipe away.