Are dating apps good for society?

Illustration: Carter Klassen · The Sentry

Illustration: Carter Klassen · The Sentry

they provide pure validation to users

Opinion by Lorraine Kelly

Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, FarmersOnly. In the 21st century, there’s a dating app for just about everyone. Gone are the days of meeting people at the bar: future mates are chosen based on a few photos, a few sarcastic statements, and maybe an Instagram feed. Tinder claims to have more than 50 million users worldwide, mostly between the ages of 18-24, making it one of the largest networking sites.  

Because really, who has time to go out with people from real life? Dating apps introduce their users to an endless array of potential mates, as opposed to choosing from a small pool of people from real life. The usual niceties still apply: introductions, finding common interests, establishing goals and boundaries. But that initial meeting (frankly, the most boring and stressful part of dating) can be completed from the comfort of a couch. Why take the time to vet someone over coffee when it can be done via text?  

Dating apps allow people to connect based on a common agenda. More often than not, that’s some kind of romantic connection, whether long-term or not. There’s already the framework for a relationship because each person is there for the same reason. But hitting on someone in public is a gamble. Are they single to begin with? Is there a mutual attraction? Do they even want someone to flirt with them right now? Such interactions can be confusing, awkward or easily misconstrued.   

But really, the best part of dating apps is the pure validation. Whether a real-life date ensues or not, users are bound to get attention. A study by LendEDU found that approximately 45% of college students use Tinder for “confidence-boosting procrastination.” Relationships are a possibility, yes, and an exciting one for some people. But they‘re not always guaranteed. Confidence-boosting compliments and validation, however, are ridiculously easy to come by on dating apps. Take a selfie, think of a funny bio, and instantly, other people are interested in pursuing some kind of romantic affiliation. Everyone needs a little attention sometimes. So take advantage of dating apps to find love, whether for another person or for the self. 

they make users less than human

Opinion by Tommy Clift

A human being should not be dismissed by the swipe of a finger. That’s not to say that everyone should be swiping right, but to say that the process of sliding through faces online is empty and callous—it doesn’t give someone the chance to be human. Dating apps accommodate an increasingly short attention span, shallow impulses, and a constant need to hit the refresh button.  

University of Northern Texas found “that male Tinder users reported lower levels of satisfaction with their faces, bodies, and lower levels of self-worth than those not on the dating app.” A survey by Time Well Spent of 200,000 iPhone users on apps that made people feel unhappy reported Grindr at the top with “77% of users admitting it made them feel miserable.” Tinder was not far behind.  

BBC’s Suzanne Bearne surveyed users who seemed to agree with the studies above, reporting body confidence anxiety, shallow expectations, and treatment. One user said, “I think we sort of swipe left on auto-pilot. It becomes a conveyor belt of images.” Even an anonymous patron at the Tivoli Brewery who used it for years before finding his wife in real life described it as “more of a game.”

In person, meeting someone can be intense, awkward, even scary—and that’s a good thing. The spark of a glance or a sudden conversation leading to connection is a human experience that shows vulnerability and willingness to step out of comfort to meet someone. Online, it’s someone laying in their bed swiping through faces like it’s candy crush until they find a suitable face with suitable angles.  

There are platforms, like eHarmony,  that present a more genuine structure of finding a partner when they have a lot of anxiety meeting people. But the grand majority takes a human process and gamifies it. 

Without a real conversation, someone not responding, or responding negatively turns people into anxious wrecks assigning their self-worth to their appearance on a screen. It’s become largely another vehicle for body shaming in extreme cases of rejection and shallow dismissal in the most mild way.

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