Online dating apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, with around half of 16-34-year-olds using them. Which is interesting considering that a Radio 1 Newsbeat survey found that Tinder, Chappy and Bumble are the ‘least preferred’ ways to meet people. (BBC, 2018)
It’s hardly surprising that it’s the ‘least preferred’…you’re constantly risking a catfish scenario with multiple potential partners not to mention that you’re opening yourself up to a lot more rejection. For those who don't know what a 'catfish is, this is where someone would pretend to be someone else online. This is usually done by stealing or faking pictures to populate the online profile.
Madeleine Mason Roantree, a relationship psychologist, “believes more people are using dating apps because they want an instant fix”. I find it fascinating that she uses the terminology ‘fix’ as she continues to explain that getting a match is “like a little dopamine hit”. Quick bit of simplified science - Dopamine is the stuff that “lights up” the pleasure sensor in our brain. (BBC, 2018)
Dopamine is addictive. We all want to lead happy lives, so we actively pursue ways to achieve happiness, and if this is to be believed, dating apps give us little hits of happiness, which is why we keep using them.
You might think I’m being melodramatic creating a connection between Tinder and Cocaine or Bubble and heroin, but the feelings we are apparently feeling are equivalent 'hits'. Dating apps have two things in common: both make you feel good for a short period of time. Both make you feel like crap when it goes bad. But you keep on going back to them in the pursuit of happiness again. (Disclaimer, I’m no expert on drugs, however the BBC 3 documentary “Drugs map of Britain” gives an fascinating insight into the drug world.
So with dating apps I have experienced the highs and lows. And I am not alone. Twenty-six-year-old Jordan stated that “dating apps kicked off a lot of issues with [his] mental health – with self-doubt and anxiety”. (BBC, 2018) and there are many more stories from online daters.
We’ve already explained how being online means you can have multiple conversations with different potential partners at once. And that is not the same as being at a bar. You can't talk to 5 different people at different tables at the same time. So what happens is more conversations naturally results in more rejection.
Also, dating apps are all based on judgement. Jordan describes it as “You’re judged for the person you are on screen, not for the person you are”. This could be relating to being judged physically - too young, too old or too fat for example - or it could mean the pretence we put forward of ourselves online.
Being online gives you the confidence to say stuff you wouldn’t normally say face to face. It gives us the opportunity to place ourselves in the best light possible. Probably because it’s less embarrassing to ‘virtually run away’ by un-matching someone on a dating app, rather than literally running away from a bar or club…
But if you put up this pretence for long periods of time, the anxiety starts to set in more and more as you think ‘will they like the real me?’
The problem that faces every single one of us (not just young people!) is that the online dating scene is changing the way we approach relationships. In my own personal experience, you could spend months talking to someone, go through the anxiety of 'will they like the real me?' and end up never actually meeting. Recently I read that “half the UK’s nightclubs have shut their doors in just 10 years”. (BBC, 2018) Now, it's a little harsh to point the finger solely at online dating apps for why, as there are most likely a multitude of different factors that could cause this. However at the same time, it would be naive to think online dating had absolutely nothing to do with these closures. We are also seeing pubs shutting their doors and the rise of digital means we might not even bump into the love of our life at Sainsburys because we can order online and drive through and pick it up. They have this week announced 'scan and go' inside the supermarket with no need for checkout staff. Gone are my chances of meeting Mrs Beardwell in the bagging area.
Less public places catered to social interaction, means that more and more of us will turn online to find the love of our life. Furthermore, as time goes on we’ll hear more ‘fairytale stories’ about how couples met on a dating app and are now happily married. It’s hard to resist the urge of dating apps when someone who’s married says “it’s mad to think all of this started by swiping right”.
And talking of swiping right (by the way - this is what you do on Tinder if you like the person's picture - for those not on dating apps). I have friends who don't even wait for the picture to come into full focus before rejecting them. Most can't wait longer than a few seconds for a page or picture to load before getting bored and clicking off, so what chance do they really have of finding their future husband or wife in under 5 minutes? It's kinda bothering me!
I'm going to remain positive though. And on that note, i'm about to load Tinder. Wish me luck.