The Dating App Dilemma
Left, left, right, right, right, these words may as well be synonymous with yes, no, approve, disapprove, interested, and uninterested, to millions of adults across the United States. One may ask, what could link so many together across such a diverse nation? The answer is simple, the desire to be with someone who wishes to be with us. The growing popularity of dating apps cannot be argued, but the benefit the make to society can. It is widely known that strong families make strong societies and nations. Many, are shocked as they study the field of family relations to find how much of an influence dating has on a marriage. In fact the importance of dating and courtship cannot be understated. This new approach of using dating apps does not increase the chances at real, lasting relationships as they claim. Of course, this claim is not to say that all relationships started on dating apps are doomed to fail, such a statement would be ignorant and baseless. However, there are many great arguments to be made for seeking partners through traditional dating rather than surfing the web to find your soulmate.
In a world that continues to incorporate technology into every imaginable faucet of life, it makes sense that dating would be influenced by this revolution as well, and has it ever! Mellissa Lin has a great article entitled about the online dating industry from a business standpoint. She shares that today roughly fifteen percent of the U.S. population reports using, or having used, a dating app. That is upwards of fifty million people creating a whopping three-billion-dollar a year industry (Lin, Online Dating Industry: Business of Love)!
One of the most common arguments for dating apps is the fact that they increase and individuals’ connections significantly. By doing so they open the doors of possibility to a countless number of relationships. Now instead of being semi-restricted by common social circles and friend groups, users have what seems to be a limitless supply of individuals searching for a partner. It is a simple numbers game, more people to talk to must equal more relationships. To summarize how one author shares her thoughts on this mirage of numberless potential matches, only five percent of adults in steady relationships (married or seriously committed) say they met through an app. Not only are users duped into thinking there are countless matches to be made, they may also begin to view themselves as extremely desirable. Regardless of the truthfulness of this statement, because your matches are lined up out the door, it can become easier to reject someone who may be an extraordinary match for you (Randy Skilton 4). More simply put, the human brain is not meant to sort through hundreds and thousands of potential partners a month based on little more than some photographs.
Another potential benefit to meeting through dating apps is the ability to carry a conversation, and get to know somebody, before going on dates with the individual. This is usually used as a weeding technique, so that users can avoid dates that would inevitably be undesirable. However, this proposed benefit may turn destructive in the end. First it seems self-defeating, what do users feel the purpose of a date is? Simply for a marriage proposal? Dates are meant to be easy, low pressure, activities used to build repour with an individual. For safety purposes it is smart to engage in conversation frequently before meeting another online user (seeing as these apps have become a breading ground for crime). However, this only serves to create a false bond, very little is communicated through these messages. As expressed so perfectly in Lauer’s book, Marriage and Family: The Quest for Intimacy, “Words are only a part of the meaning in communication. Equally as important as the words we use is the way we express them. Estimates are that anywhere from fifty to eighty percent of the meaning we convey is through the nonverbal part of our conversation” (194). While having a conversation over the internet may put someones mind at ease, it does little to progress a relationship. If one is missing upwards of eighty percent of communication, there is a good chance that conversations will be very different when people meet in person. A majority of people have also reported either putting inaccurate information on their own profile or feeling lied to when meeting in person with someone else (Skilton). It is easy for an individual to show disingenuous intentions and desires when miles apart, one may seem kind and caring, fully invested in the relationship, when in fact they are simply looking for physical interactions.
Dating apps are also a catalyst for hang out and hook up culture. These apps provide an easy way to meet people, with no commitment to keep anything going. In their own descriptions many of these apps boast the ability to never have strings attached. Studies have shown that nearly half of males in dating apps use them simply for one-night stands (Tyson, Gareth 6). These apps do have their place, if you are searching for causal dates with no desire to really progress forward! However, when searching for long-term relationships more traditional ways of finding partners can be extremely beneficial.
Layona Newman expressed that traditional dating undoubtedly allows for a faster read of important information. It is hard for someone to lie about their physical attributes, and accomplishments, when face-to-face. People interact consistently with someone, outside of dating, when a connection was previously established. This could be someone from a yoga class, a coworker, or a fellow student. This small level of familiarity makes your ability to connect through traditional means much more secure (Paragraph 3).
Another benefit of meeting, and dating, people who are closer to our social circles comes as we look further down the road. Building a relationship is slowly melting two worlds into one. Of course, we should always be individuals, but long-term relationships fair much better when two worlds become one instead of two worlds tethered by a string. This process can be hard, requiring sacrifice from both sides; however, when both of you share mutual friends, a similar schedule, and a similar social outlook, this process can become much easier! Rather than trying to combine two worlds with very few connections, you’re simply building on the multiple connections you already have! For example when individuals meet because they are geographically close, chances are they will share many cultural similarities. This way of meeting people (through natural connections like school, work, church) is still the most common, and provides the best opportunity for lasting relationships.
Many argue that traditional dating is slow, that it’s hard to meet people, or that they just don’t know where to go. The truth of the matter is that most people simply do not put in the time necessary to meet people in person. Consider this statement from Kristine Fellizar regarding the amount of time spent on dating apps, “Dating app, Badoo, recently surveyed its database of 370 million users worldwide to discover how much time people really dedicate to dating apps. On average, people spend about 90 minutes a day online dating” (Bustle). This means the average person spends ten hours a week online dating! It would not be a stretch to assume that most of those users have never had a week they spent ten hours trying to meet people in person. Online dating coach, Eric Resnick, commented on the survey and stated,
“I recommend to my clients that they try not to exceed 15-20 minutes a day (or every other day). If you spend more time than that, you end up turning online dating into your part-time job. There’s a big difference between what the dating sites want us to do and what actually helps us meet the love of our lives. It’s not a numbers game. By turning it into one, we are only hurting ourselves.” (Fellizar, Bustle)
Clearly as one who had dedicated his career to online dating, Eric Resnick would know the upsides and downfalls to online dating. He outlines two points which are critical to viewing the effectiveness of online dating. First dating apps are not users’ friends! They are a business, and as shown before a very profitable one at that. They use algorithms, adds, and potential matches to keep users’ eyes on their app as long as possible. Users would be better served dedicating ten hours to an activity they love, with the intention of making connections!
Second, most people view dating apps as a numbers game. More matches should mean more conversations, more conversations mean more dates, and more dates means a higher chance of finding a relationship. However, this numbers game philosophy is not supported by the expert! In fact, seeing others as a number is something that will hurt users in the long run! People cannot expect to view potential partners as another number, another swipe, and not in the same moment objectify them. To start a relationship with one, or both, partners objectifying the other is to begin building a house on a weak foundation indeed.
At the end of the day, dating is evolving. Many people are turning to apps to find connections they crave. Though some argue that dating apps can be used as a tool to meet people, for most the number of potentials is overwhelming. This idea of countless matches will lead to less willingness to invest, and loss in potential relationships. Dating apps continue to place physical characteristics above all else, causing a significant hookup culture. This is fine if that is what you are looking for, but very destructive when seeking to build a lasting relationship. As discussed, many users are online enough for it to be considered a part time job. This time would be better spent searching for, and participating in, groups and activities that provide you with the opportunity to meet others. Dating apps may one day be an effective tool for most individuals, but with the current trends, most users will simply find casual flings, misinformation, and wasted time.