Are dating apps dead? | Dizzy
They say love is a battleground, but in the jungle of online dating, it’s more like a wasteland. FaceTuned and filtered, we scour potential profiles like a seemingly endless deck of cards in search of love — or at least a connection. When we finally find a match, the mood is stuffy. Maybe they’re unresponsive or we’re busy with real-world distractions. Perhaps we are too engrossed in another potential suitor whose conversation also dries up when we get bored and inevitably lose interest.
Inside this gamified practice of swiping left and right, users are “pushed” to process their potential partner’s face in seconds. Almost two out of five people have used dating apps, but very few services provide information about a user’s personality, except for a few short remarks based on a list of predefined prompts. And no matter how many times you refresh your profile with new selfies (to show you’re confident), full-body pics (to show you’re not a catfish), and group photos (to show show you have friends), you end up getting bored and depressed.
The effectiveness of dating apps in holding our attention is partly due to boosting ego and fighting boredom. Swiping has been proven to intensify pleasant chemical reactions in the brain, with Dr. Liu recounting psychology today this dating apps have capitalized on dating to become an “addictive game”. Endless parade doses our brains with dopamine, encouraging us to perpetually swipe while wired to seek rewards. On the surface, our actions have no consequences, so it allows us to disassociate ourselves from the real effects of our actions. We bench (put a potential partner on hold in case we find someone better), breadcrumb (lead someone), and haunt (keep crawling on people’s stories even after ghosting them) ad- nausea.
With about a third (34%) of US adults use apps because they want to have something fun to do, and 26% use apps to have casual sex, finding love isn’t easy. A 2020 study by Pew Research found that a third of women using dating apps were called abusive names, and nearly half of women were sued by men online after saying no. Elsewhere, recent stories — like West Elm Caleb’s — further underscore the growing frustrations surrounding dating app etiquette.
But after years of death and pandemic, people want to connect to dating apps for real connections, not to win the social analytics game of how many matches you’ve received in X days. While slipping into infinity with a tiny chance of finding love might seem like fun at first, it quickly becomes trivial. Case in point: Tinder and Grindr recently topped an app list most likely to make users unhappy. Pursuing alternative apps – of which there are many – seems equally fruitless, prompting you to ditch virtual dating altogether. So it’s no surprise people are wondering, is it finally time to find love the old-fashioned way?
“I think people flock to online dating because it’s literally at your fingertips, but it gets repetitive, scrolls, scans and meets your exes,” says Sam Rubinstein, the founder of Ting link, a queer IRL speed-dating event in London. “After lockdown I think people are open to something different and to being in a queer environment. Never judge a book by its cover, and meeting people they wouldn’t usually go online can be a lot more surprising!
Rubinstein launched the semi-regular event after growing bored of conventional online dating during lockdown. “In 2021 I started my own Rooibos business, working as a hairstylist/barber, and wanted to use my database of gay clients and set up Link Ting as an in-person dating event where I could potentially match if needed,” they add. “The more events I do, the more I start to set up the right format, but after everyone’s had a drink or two, it’s fun to sit down as the mastermind and to see the flirtation unfold.”
For Cem A, the admin behind the art-centric meme account Freeze, the pandemic has pushed them to seek new methods of dating. He founded Freeze dating last year with the intention of bringing like-minded followers together beyond the algorithm. “Art events, visits to exhibitions and vernissages were a good way to meet new people with common interests. We wanted to use artistic memes to reach the same online community,” he explains. After launching the first Freeze Dating last year, Cem received more than 800 responses in 12 hours, prompting him to close applications early. “It was very motivating to get such a positive response. On the other hand, we learned that we will need more technical support next time. If we can find a collaborator or a suitable platform, we would like organize a live online event for meetings and networking.”
“I think people flock to online dating because it’s literally at your fingertips, but it gets repetitive, scrolls, slips and meets your exes” – Sam Rubinstein
Elsewhere, a sexless dating event at 180 The Strand in London is hosted by trainee sex therapist Eliza Lawrence, who provides prompts to help the conversation move forward. “It’s nice to see people connecting on a philosophical level. We even had a couple at the table, recording their own conversation about sex and love,” says Sophia, one of the event organizers.
Dating apps are certainly evolving: a new app thursday is only live 24 hours once a week, giving users a small window to match, message and arrange a date, while Tinder has introduced a new blind date feature to reflect habits of modern Gen Z dating, which promote authenticity. ButThe increase in organized dating experiences demonstrates our need for real human experiences. “Wednesday nights at a Link Ting event means you have something to look forward to midweek. I try to create space for you to flirt, for me to drown out awkward silences with my serenade, and for those who are shy, to find the courage and talk to people they might not feel confident enough with, Rubinstein said. “Some said it was nicer than a typical night out, spying on someone at the bar you hang out at all night wishing you were talking too. I’ve had great feedback from those who have participated so far. If you can’t find love, you’re bound to find a friend. And that’s always appreciated as a queer in a big city!
We’ve spent the better part of two years stuck behind screens, our daily lives increasingly ruled by algorithms, so taking matters into our own hands feels new, even exciting. “Dating apps have started to feel more and more impersonal. It’s understandable that people are looking for non-algorithmic ways to find like-minded people,” Cem agrees. With the current year 2000 trend, young people will undoubtedly continue to seek new, authentic ways to connect without the need for technology.We may not stop people on the streets just yet, but a shift in our dating habits is on the horizon.