What makes people misbehave on dating apps?

By on June 4, 2022 0

Although many New Zealanders have met their current partner on an app, dating this way has a dark side, says social scientist Joanne Orlando.

While the “market vibe” of the online dating landscape may seem promising, some app users are demoralized by repeated experiences of ghosting and derision, she tells Jim Mora.


A decade ago, our online and offline worlds were quite separate, but we’re personally more vulnerable now, that’s not the case anymore, says Orlando.

“Who we are and what we do online are very much integrated into our ‘real’ lives. They’re almost one now… [When you’re online dating] you really show off and hope someone loves you for who you are.”

Ghosting is one of the major dating app issues that women and men mention in Orlando. She says it usually involves a seemingly promising conversation over a few days before someone disappears without a trace, she says.

After repeatedly being “ghosted” in this way, Orlando says, people can expect lousy treatment from potential romantic partners both on dating apps and in real life.

“I think if [ghosting] continues to happen to you, you develop a certain vulnerability and sensitivity to it. It becomes a much bigger problem than it normally would be if you weren’t on dating apps.”

“Hate speech” – which has set the internet ablaze for the past two years – has also had a very negative effect on how people communicate on dating apps.

Some take advantage of the opportunity — that dating apps provide — to be “less pleasant” versions of themselves, Orlando says.

“You can try a character a bit and you can treat people badly because it’s not you…people can be pretty insensitive in how they treat other people. They kind of forget that they’re human and it becomes a bit of a game for them.”

People need to be clear about the kinds of communication we’re willing and unwilling to accept both in person and online, she says.

“Consent starts from the moment you first communicate with someone. So if someone treats you badly directly…a massive, massive red flag. They won’t get better.”

Dating apps tend to make people more superficial, she tells Jim Mora.

“When we see people in real life who might be a bit shorter or who just don’t quite have the look we’re going for, we can very easily dismiss them because we know there are tons of people in our inbox who look a little better than that and who we might have a chance with.”

The growing number of “suggestive” selfies on dating apps appears to be an attempt to stand out in the crowd, Orlando says.

“It’s hard to get through and get noticed. I think it’s a way to get noticed.”

People are putting in the work in part because dating apps have made us more “wonderful” in terms of who we consider our romantic partner.

Sadly, dating app users typically try to connect with others who are about 25% more desirable than them, she says.

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