Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had been off of dating apps since mid-February. I redownloaded Tinder and used Bumble for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Dating and meeting new people have never been easy, and truthfully, I don’t think apps have made it any better. Sure, we now have more options but in my view, that’s part of the problem.
I downloaded the apps to have some fun with my roommate and we traded phones, swiping and messaging for each other. It was really just a game for me and I suspect that’s how it is for a lot of people. It didn’t take long for me to remember why I deleted the apps in the first place… and to delete them yet again.
1. Bad Profiles
Good profiles are few and far between. Seeing a well put together profile on a dating app, even if I’m not interested in the person, is like spotting an owl in the middle of a city. It’s rare. Dating apps are chock full of really, really bad profiles. I have a hard time imagining that this is what these people think is the best way for them to represent themselves. The worst is when they have no photos of themselves alone or if they do have a photo of just them, they’re wearing a hat or sunglasses so you can’t clearly see their face. I’m not here to play Where’s Waldo? with your profile. In fact, the majority of photos in the best profiles only have that one person in the photos. And a cute animal, that always works.
2. It’s a Game
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t looking for anything serious during my most recent round on the apps and a lot of people aren’t either. Many people use dating apps as a pastime or an ego boost, especially during the quarantine. Even when there isn’t a pandemic going on, sometimes using dating apps is really just a matter of Can I match with this person? It’s nice to get the ego boost of having someone like your profile and sometimes, that’s all some people are after. Which leads to the next problem-
3. No One Messages
If people are only on the apps for an ego boost, they usually don’t message. And I get it, I’ve been that person. Messaging people is a total drag and during this pandemic, hardly anyone has anything interesting to say because hardly anyone is going out in the world and doing new things. Easy conversation topics of conversation like the new movie you just saw or the exhibit you saw at the museum last weekend are few and far between. Everyone right now is bored and bored people are boring. (Yes, guilty as charged.)
4. Too Many Messages
On the flip side of getting no messages, sometimes there are too many messages. This is mainly a problem I noticed with Bumble since women have to message first; it’s kind of exhausting to always be the one who messages first. And if conversations do get started, it’s hard to keep up with them all. If I have 30+ matches and we’re all chatting, it’s a lot to keep up with. It makes me feel like I need a secretary to keep up with it all.
Have you ever found yourself swiping endlessly when you really only intended to check the weather to see what you should wear for the day and then, next thing you know, it’s half past 8? Dating apps are an addictive technology just like social media and YouTube. The app developers are literal geniuses and masterminds at keeping us glued to our screens and stuck on their platforms. In fact, the very act of swiping has the same addictive impact as pulling the lever of a slot machine. The apps are designed to addict and use the same methods as Casinos to do it.
Naturally, this means it’s not in the app developers’ best interest for us to find someone and delete the apps. The only possible exception to this would be Hinge (which happens to be the app I hate the least #notsponsored). But even with Hinge, as with any dating app, keep in mind that once you meet someone and delete the app, the app developers are no longer going to be making any money. Even if you never pay for dating apps, some apps still run ads and they need your eyeballs in order to get advertisers to purchase ads on their platform. I am very wary of any business whose supposed goal or mission as a company is in opposition to their bottom line.
6. The Paradox of Choice
We often assume that having a wider variety of options is a good thing but in most cases, it’s the opposite. Studies have shown that with too many options, people are less likely to make a final decision and if they do, they tend to be less happy than people who had fewer options¹. If there’s one thing that dating apps do, it’s give us infinite options. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that we can now meet people we never would have otherwise, but, the sheer volume can be overwhelming, and knowing how to filter people out can prove to be tricky.
Dating apps now come with a myriad of filters from things as superficial as height and taste in music to the more serious topics like future plans for children. The problem with all of these filters is that the majority of them are very superficial. In fact, studies have shown that people actually select partners who are far from the ideal they originally said they wanted². With the overwhelming amount of potential partners that dating apps give to us, how can we accurately filter all of these choices if what we think we want “on paper” is not accurate?
How to Really Know if You Like Someone
With so many people on the apps, everyone is trying to stand out in some way. This invariably leads to people trying too hard or using the same lines in their bio. In a way, it’s almost a zero-sum game where if you don’t make an effort to stand out, you get overlooked and if you do make an effort, it often comes off as cheesy. Crafting a solid dating profile is hard and writing a personal bio isn’t easy but I find that the longer I’m on these apps, the more I start to roll my eyes and swipe left, regardless of how hot the person is. Consciously, I know that every person is a unique individual and that there’s more to them than just what’s in their profile. But with so many options, dating apps can make us lazy; it’s a lot easier to just swipe left than to get to know someone.
You can never really get to know a person solely through text and photos. So much of communication is nonverbal and things easily get lost in translation over text. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to message someone for a long time before actually meeting up or Facetiming but who someone is over text or Snapchat is not who they are in real life. We’re all different people when we have as much time as we want to carefully craft a response and any creep can pretend to be a gentleman over text.
I think we all need to keep in mind that dating apps aren’t really what dating is. The apps are really just a matchmaking or introduction service. So regardless of whether you meet someone online or offline, keeping the conversation going solely through texts and messages is not a good strategy. If you want to make the most of dating apps, especially during this quarantine season, move the conversation to phone calls and then Facetime (or Skype or Zoom, etc.). The one thing I did appreciate about Bumble is that they have the phone and video calls right in the app which makes this a lot easier and safer than giving out a phone number.
Without actually meeting someone in the flesh, it can be very hard to truly get to know someone. But as for right now, phone calls and video chats are our best options. To get a person’s real vibe and to filter out people faster, face to face is the way to go.
What do you think about online dating? Do you love it or hate it? Let me know how your quarantine dating is going in the comments. I’d love to hear about your experiences!
- “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much
- of a Good Thing?” Sheena S. Iyengar Columbia University and Mark R. Lepper Stanford University
- “Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Revisited: Do People Know What They Initially Desire in a Romantic Partner?” Paul W. Eastwick and Eli J. Finkel Northwestern University