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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Tinder and other dating apps are a popular and convenient way to meet people for dates, hookups or just to chat.

Dating has its problems, but swiping isn’t the solution

In a culture where convenience is king, dating as a young adult has lost its purpose.

If you’re single and in college, you’ve probably downloaded Tinder before. Maybe you downloaded it to get a confidence boost, because you were bored and had a few too many drinks, or to see what your ex was up to. Maybe you just wanted a new game on your phone.

Whatever the reason, the next 30 minutes of your life probably looked something like this: ten minutes hand-picking only the best pictures from your camera roll, five minutes picking a Spotify anthem that wouldn’t embarrass you and 15 minutes virtually speed dating. Left on the guy in your philosophy discussion, left on the girl from your floor freshman year, and right on that person you keep running into at the gym.

Assuming you’re more generous than the average user, you might give your potential future partners 10 seconds of attention each. Within 15 minutes, you’ve rejected — or confessed your admiration for — 90 different people without having to leave the comfort of your bed. Speed-dating 90 people in 15 minutes. Even on his best night out in 1990, that number would have left my dad in a comatose state. 

Dating apps provide shortcuts to the horribly awkward world of dating as a young adult, and that’s tempting. But these quick-fix solutions might be stunting our growth and robbing us of important learning experiences.

I know I probably sound like your mother, but keep in mind that she had a front row seat to the changing dating world. So, per usual, your mother probably has a point. 

Before 1995 and the development of Match.com, lonely singles on the hunt for love — or validation — were limited to three options: dating someone they already knew, striking up a conversation with a stranger or attending an in-person speed dating event, the latter of which is virtually extinct. Despite the longstanding limitations of in-person romance, online dating didn’t take off as a cultural phenomenon immediately upon release; by 2008, only 3% of American adults had used an online dating service.

Four years later, Tinder changed everything. 

Upon first glance, the app has a similar feel to a mobile video game and is less like a standard matchmaking service. This is by design. Tinder and other dating apps that followed suit abandoned the text-heavy format of previous dating services. Instead, these apps opted for minimal text, flashy visual queues and simple rules for matching: swipe left for no and right for yes.

Dating apps like Tinder are incredibly low-maintenance and user-friendly. The limited barriers to participation and widespread popularity have caused online dating participation to skyrocket. 

As of 2023, around 53% of people under 30 had used at least one online dating service.

Why does this concern your mother and me? It’s because apps like Tinder have made dating easy, and that might not be for the best. 

With the help of Tinder, you can expect rapid-fire instant gratification and a dating pool filtered to your perfect preferences. With the help of Tinder, you have complete and total control over your image and have time to craft the perfect witty text. With the help of Tinder, you can make a move without moving from your couch, and you never have to worry about dealing with in-person rejection. 

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Without Tinder, you’re forced to wait a little longer for a connection and challenged to reconsider hard and fast preferences. Without Tinder, you’re subjected to potential partners seeing every side of you, and you’re put on the spot to keep the conversation flowing. Without Tinder, making the first move requires more effort than the swipe of a thumb. You’re exposed to the possibility of getting turned down face-to-face, and you have to learn to deal with it. You’re better off for it. 

If you’ve never downloaded Tinder before, I’m not telling you to avoid it like the plague. If you have Tinder on your phone, I don’t think you should run and delete your profile. However, it's important to recognize that whether you choose to participate or not, dating apps have fundamentally changed the way we learn to date. 

Dating is meant to be messy. Dating is meant to be slightly embarrassing. Most importantly, dating as a young adult is meant to be a learning experience. Don’t run to your phone and delete your profile, but don’t run from the discomfort that makes dating meaningful.

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