Why Dating Apps Are Bad For Your Love Life

Why Dating Apps Are Bad For Your Love Life
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My thoughts about Tinder have been documented.

Tinder – and other dating apps – are exactly what society craves:

Something free, quick, easy, effortless, and frictionless

Something that caters to our shallow impulses, short attention spans, and desire for variety.

Something that would take our need for love, sex, attention, affection and validation and turn it into a dopamine heightening video game that we can play anytime, anywhere, with little to no thought beyond whether someone is hot or not.

As a user, you may prefer Tinder to Match, and if you do, I don’t judge you nor blame you. If anything, I understand you and empathize with you.

You want to meet more people. You don’t want to read through long profiles. You don’t want to write long emails. You don’t want to invest time in getting to know someone, who, quite likely, will not be a great long-term partner. You want to swipe right, text, meet quickly, and see ASAP if there’s compatibility.

I get it.

But what are the downsides of this process?

You don’t need me to tell you.

For all the positives we associate with dating apps, there are equal negatives.

For all the positives we associate with dating apps, there are equal negatives.

If you’re swiping right on dozens of people, it becomes more overwhelming and confusing.

If you are not reading about people in their own words, you don’t really know the first thing about them before getting each other’s phone numbers.

If you don’t have long profiles, you won’t have many interesting things to say in your communication beyond, “Hey, you’re hot. Cute dog. Want to hang out sometime?”

If you don’t invest time in getting to know someone before you meet, you will go on more bad dates than you did before because there’s no screening mechanism.

If you feel that people are too shallow and judging on looks alone, you are now relying on an app based entirely on looks, in which its pretty hard to compete.

If you understand the Paradox of Choice, you know that the more choices people have, the harder it is to decide, and the less happy people become.

If you are communicating via text with a ton of people at once, you realize nobody has anything invested in you. You must be prepared for more ghosting, flaking, breadcrumbing, and unsolicited dick pics because when dating is gamified, you are not realy a human being – you are merely one of 20 women he’s texting right now in his quest to see how quickly he can meet and get laid. Good luck competing with the women who send nude photos and want to meet up at 11pm.

Thus, something as benign as a dating app is both problematic and addicting

Something that was designed to solve a problem actually causes deeper problems.

And while everyone complains about these problems, most of us insist that dating apps are the only game in town – so we keep swiping and texting and complaining about the flakes and pervs and indignities that come with being nothing more than a photo on an app, as opposed to a flesh and blood human being with feelings, interests and a personality that cannot be captured via ducklips and emojis.

You know it. I know it. The Atlantic, who wrote this article about how Tinder changed dating, knows it.

I highly encourage you to read that piece and think about whether apps are truly making you happy and providing the optimal dating experience, or if you’re just doing it because it’s the easiest/laziest thing one can do to meet members of the opposite sex.

And if you have noticed the same problems I have about dating apps, what are you going to do differently to get a different result?

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (16 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    No Name To Give

    That genie ain’t going back in the bottle.

  2. 2
    Paula

    I believe there is a continuum between the bookends of optimal dating experience and the lazy/easy way of meeting people. As EMK often writes, one can approach dating apps in a more thoughtful and determined manner of one believes it’s possible to get out of it what one puts in. I myself have been at various points on that continuum and it’s always had to do with what I was willing to put into it.

  3. 3
    shaukat

    Interesting piece in the Atlantic. I agree with much of it, but here are some points to keep in mind:

    1). Maybe only the top 5% of men are juggling more than 20 attractive women on dating apps at once and receiving unsolicited nudes, and the women engaging them are likely in their early to mid 20s, so the main demographic reading this blog probably aren’t competing with those women anyway.

    2). Many of the traditional dating sites have changed their model to become competitive with the apps. For example, OkCupid and POF have changed their platform so that you can’t read a message unless both users have ‘liked’ each other.

    3). Many active daters have migrated away from the traditional sites, especially since they cost money. Meaning that if you choose to meet people through OLD in 2019 you probably have to use at least one app to maximize your chances for success.

    I agree that those apps have likely done some harm over the long-term, but it looks like they’re here to stay.

  4. 4
    Gab

    I look at Tinder, Bumble, etc. as something akin to a crowded bar. I have nice photos of myself, face and full length. I have a very well-written profile that conveys not only who I am but what kind of interaction I expect. I don’t specifically ask for anything but the obvious effort I’ve taken to be witty and thoughtful sets the tone. If I swipe right I’m just smiling at you. The majority of my right swipes result in a match. Now it’s up to the guy. Some guys don’t bother messaging at all. I believe they initially swiped based on my photos but once they see my profile they realize I am not going to be low-effort. Other guys send me the generic greetings, ask me very uninspired questions. I will be polite for a few days and then cut them loose with an ‘I don’t think we’re a match’. A smaller handful of men will be intrigued and have the skills to engage with me. They will make an effort to be clever and funny, to get to know me. Some of these men will also fall by the wayside but an even smaller percentage will end up asking me out on a date. Chemistry is important to me but for me it comes from the way he expresses himself in his texts, his intelligence and wit. The men who have ended up becoming boyfriends have all been men I had excellent texts with initially, to the point where I knew before the first date that it would work. A dating app is not going to make a man who wants a relationship and has standards throw it all out the window to chase sex, nor is it going to take a man not interested in commitment and turn him into a boyfriend. All it will do is expose you to all of these men, much like going to a bar would. It’s up to you with your profile, texting expectations, phone calls, dates etc., to qualify your matches to get what you want. I think I’m pretty good at the process – my primary blind spot is the chemistry. As I said above, for me it comes through the way he expresses himself, initially in his texts. Guys who are good with their words, smart and funny will always catch my eye, but just like looks or any other trait, in and of itself it is not enough for long-term compatibility. I’ve recently started online dating again but this time I am trying to slow down the texting, not get too carried away if someone gives great text, and also lower the bar a little to the men who make an effort but are not exceptional communicators.

    1. 4.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @Gab

      ” The majority of my right swipes result in a match. Now it’s up to the guy. Some guys don’t bother messaging at all. I believe they initially swiped based on my photos but once they see my profile they realize I am not going to be low-effort.”

      On app-based dating sites like Tinder, men tend swipe to nearly every women to the right and make their selections after matches are made. On the other hand, women become even more selective due to the high number of matches they receive only to be confused when a man with whom they have matched does not initiate a conversation. This behavioral pattern is well documented. It is one of the downsides of dating apps.

  5. 5
    Clare

    I met my wonderful boyfriend on Tinder, and I used Tinder pretty extensively for three plus years before that, but I will be the first to agree that all the downsides Evan mentions are present in spades, and I experienced Tinder burnout several times.

    There is no getting away from the fact that it is simply an app on your phone, and that, in and of itself, makes it far more superficial. You have to know and brace yourself for that fact going in, and I see far too many women investing emotionally in a guy when they’ve only been texting with him for a few days and maybe had one date.

    It’s difficult when it comes to dating apps, because your emotional processing outstrips what is happening with these potential dates in real life, unless you make a conscious effort to avoid that and slow yourself down. And even if you do that, you will still experience plenty of ghosting, flaking, commitment phobia, lack of emotional readiness, lying, etc.It’s simply far too easy for people to indulge a fantasy without having to follow through.

    The painful experiences I had in using Tinder were pretty much exclusively to do with meeting a guy I really liked and then dating him for a few weeks or month or two and then finding out he was not relationship ready. I think a downfall of dating apps which perhaps was not mentioned in this article is that it allows people who are either not emotionally available or not ready for a relationship to “window shop” whilst telling someone that they have just met what they want to hear. For me, this was the most damaging part of using the app.

    The people who are just looking to hook up or to exchange pictures or sexual texts are very easy to spot and easy to weed out. Personally, I never got sent a single dick pic, and the vast majority of guys I talked to were respectful of me. Although your ability to screen is limited with Tinder, I still screened extensively and was very selective about who I would swipe right on, talk to and meet. I found there were all sorts of “tells” about what sort of guy a guy was from his pictures and his profile (or lack thereof).

    And even with that, you still have to rein your emotions in when you meet a guy. Here are some pearls from dating coaches (Evan and others) that helped me:

    * a guy or relationship is not real until you’ve met in person. It’s totally imaginary
    * a guy is not real until he’s your boyfriend
    * a relationship of less than three months can go either way; keep expectations in check and adopt a “wait and see” approach.

  6. 6
    Vanessa

    I agree with Evan on this, and Tinder really does go for quantity over quantity. I gave up on it a while ago, but I did use OKCupid. One of my oldest friends met her husband on there, so I was hopeful about ti. OKC has the same swiping feature as Tinder does and filters out messages based on what you swipe(so you don’t have to wade through messages from people you have no interest in), but they also ask a TON of questions you can answer to help you find people you are more compatible with. It was super useful to me. I met my now-boyfriend on there, if I remember correctly we had over a 96% compatibility match. It’s been 8 months now of relationship bliss and I am moving in with him next month. I fully consider myself a OKC advocate now, and if anyone is getting tired of Tinder but still wants to use the apps, OKC is a great alternative! I am very curious to hear Evan’s take on that app.

    1. 6.1
      Meridith

      I also used OKCupid because I wanted more information than three sentences on a Tinder and Bumble. I tried not to read through guy’s answers too much because it’s fun (and less creepy) to get to know them in person but it’s good to scope out any dealbreakers and evaluate how interested they seem ina relationship. My fiancé and I also were about 96% compatible so I’m an advocate too 🙂

  7. 7
    MilkyMae

    Planet Fitness makes most of it’s money on people who never commit to regular workouts. The Match Group makes tons of money off people who spend years hopping from one dating app to another without success. I don’t want to bash dating apps but you need to keep in mind that there are subtle and insidious forces. Failure is part of their bottom line.
    Also, I don’t trust the stats about online dating. These companies love to publish stats, surveys and testimonials about online dating but they almost never let an impartial analyst look at their data. They sell data but its for co-marketing and not for analysis of their service. They have tons of data!

  8. 8
    MilkyMae

    BTW. I think photos and facebook changed dating forever. Not tinder. These two “features” have done nothing for quantity OR the quality of dates. They provide more ways to lie and more reasons to reject someone.

  9. 9
    Dana

    I used all the apps. There was burnout, there were dick pics, there was absurdity, and there were dates. And then I met the love of my life, on Tinder. I don’t ascribe that to Tinder’s debit or credit, or to apps in general. I see apps as just that — an application that encourages atoms to bump into each other. I just happened to be using Tinder when I bumped into my husband.

  10. 10
    No Name To Give

    Just heard a news report the results of a study were just released indicating that those who use apps or dating websites have more issues with eating disorders due to fears of discrimination and body shaming. Not commenting on it’s validity either way, just passing along that I heard it.

    1. 10.1
      Noone45

      That’s not shocking. Humans are awful. Ever been a fat woman in public? I have. It’s not fun. I lost some weight, I’m still overweight, but I’m smaller than what I was. People treat me a lot differently now. They are much nicer. It’s so petty because most of these people are fat too.

  11. 11
    Noone45

    Eh, there’s another drawback for me: It reduces everyone to the same human. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but everyone on Tinder lists the same interests. They have the same poses in their photos, they like the same music. I find it strange. I suspect people copy each other in an attempt to reach more matches.

    I deleted my account last month to refresh because I hadn’t touched the app in six months (in fact, I had deleted it). I have three matches because I seem to swipe left on everyone. It’s as uninspiring as I remembered it being. But I don’t think it’s the app. I feel that way about people I see offline. Hell, go to Germantown in Nashville. You’ll see the same woman or man walking a designer dog over and over. It’s weird.

  12. 12
    Camille Virginia

    Well said, Evan. Dating apps may be here to stay and will always have a user base, but that doesn’t mean any one person has to use them. The human race did just fine for the past hundred thousand years or so without them, and will continue to do so. And though it may appear more challenging to engage someone IRL (though actually it’s now become a huge opportunity / untapped market to meet face to face), our innate need for human connection didn’t go out the window with the invention of the swipe. Time for people to start using those long lost interaction skills – they’re still within everyone, maybe just a little rusty.

  13. 13
    BriA

    I always say that most of the guys I swipe left on would probably be great guys that I’d like to get to know if I met them in person. Personality really outweighs looks sometimes (granted you don’t look like a dirty foot). It’s just so hard when you have so many attractive men popping up on your screen & looks are the first thing you have to go on.

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