There comes a point in many people’s dating lives when The Apps just don’t scratch that itch anymore. Here’s why I’m done with dating apps, maybe for good.
You can’t gamify love
Opening Tinder in 2022 is like walking into a casino. Flashing lights and colourful buttons announce things like live match games and quizzes, and it feels more than ever like people are mere commodities to pick up (and throw away) at our convenience.
I’m the first to admit my relatively consistent use of dating apps over the years, from the days of long-winded essays on OkCupid to, more recently, the swears-its-deeper-than-Tinder experience of Hinge. To be clear, I don’t think there’s any shame in meeting your boo on one of the many dating apps out there (of which there are literally thousands), and you’d be in good company, with users numbering in the hundreds of millions (and Tinder alone at 75m).
But at the ripe old age of 29, it has come to a head for me, and I had a moment of silence as I deleted the already-thinning and barely-used collection of dating apps from my phone a few weeks ago. This time, maybe for good. Is this adulthood?
People, not products
I’ve talked about the issues with modern dating before, and the core part of dating apps that throws me off is that it feels like shopping. The only difference between browsing through your favourite brand’s latest drop and swiping potential matches is that it’s even easier to add people to your cart than clothes. And with the average profile contemplation time ranging from 5 to 10 seconds, it’s hard to believe most people are on the search for a genuine, lasting connection. I can’t help but feel like dating apps are the toxic and unsustainable fast fashion giants of the dating world, concerned more with instant gratification than anything else.
That’s not to say everyone is looking for love, nor should they be. Casual connections are valid and increasingly common in the modern age, and they can definitely be done healthily, but for those of us who are one or two (okay, four) steps beyond the majority member age range of 18-25 and on the market for something that looks a bit different, it’s a little bleak.
I also want to recognise here that for some groups of people, dating apps open up a world of possibilities they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, or at least simplify the whole process. Dating when queer or disabled, for example, can be tricky in the heteronormative, ableist world we find ourselves in, so I’m thrilled that there are dating apps out there to bust that wide open.
So what’s the alternative?
I’ll hand this to dating apps: they expose you to people (and, uh, STIs?) that you wouldn’t normally encounter in your day-to-day life. And expanding horizons is a good thing because being stuck in your bubble can cut you off from the richness of life across cultures and borders.
But dating, and especially love, is about that real human connection. That catching someone’s eye across the room, and feeling moved to strike up a conversation with them, totally in the dark about their ASL, favourite movie, or most recent travel story. Half the joy in dating is getting to know someone from the ground up and having to actually talk to them to figure out where they went to uni or what their dreams are or whether they believe in aliens. I know, novel concept. And as much as you can chat to someone online and get the gist of what they’re like as a person, it will never answer that pressing question: is there chemistry?
I’m not going to pretend to have the glass slipper of dating advice, but I do know that some of the sweetest connections I’ve made in life (romantic and platonic both) have stemmed from meeting people the old fashioned way and not on a screen that fits in the palm of your hand. If you’re struggling to meet people on apps, maybe they’re not right for you either.
I can’t recommend highly enough putting yourself out there, and not necessarily with the intention of finding dates. Try new hobbies. Take that salsa class you’ve always wanted to give a whirl; attend a climate rally and stick around afterwards for the debrief; browse books in a library instead of a Kindle; do your distance work from a café instead of your home office. And if you meet someone and decide to pursue a little romance, focus your genuine attention and intention on that connection and see where it goes. You might be surprised by what happens next.
P.S. Just because Jennifer from high school met her hubby on Tinder, doesn’t mean that’s the typical result, okay?
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