Dating apps have destroyed love
In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it? Not very much.
Seriously though, are dating apps and love incompatible?
Cambridge is an intentionally pressured and stressful environment — this hardly bodes well for healthy romantic interaction. Students spend hours on their laptops writing essays, or on their mobiles replying to DoS emails: it’s not unreasonable to assume that their social and romantic life will follow suit. Over 72% of those who responded to our survey admitted to using dating apps — they have truly infiltrated the romantic experience here in Cambridge. But is this a force for good?
Apps are supposed to make our lives easier: just a few taps can order you a taxi, direct you to your supervisions or download your favourite playlist. But I wonder if the attempt to transfer this digital ease onto our love and sex lives really makes them more straightforward. Our modern lives are mechanised to an enormous degree, and romance is just another feature of it.
Recent research by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) found that high numbers of 16 to 18-year-olds prefer digital sexting over actual dates and sexual activity, landing themselves the title of 'Generation Sensible': they are less likely to go out for underage drinking or smoking, prefer to stay indoors and are ‘losing their virginity’ a lot later than the previous generation. As they transition to university, it seems obvious that this will impact the way they view their increasingly automated love lives. There are a whole plethora of dangers when it comes to having youthful romance restricted to mobiles. Young people are vulnerable to blackmail, bullying and other forms of online abuse related to sexting and unsolicited nudes being sent and received. This 'digital flirting' is being increasingly considered a normal part of social interaction, but this surely cannot override the crucial lessons of non-verbal cues and body language.
Even if we rule out finding love on these dating apps and lower the expectations to merely lust, these apps still fall short. It is nearly impossible to compare the instant connections on these sites to the real connections you get when you're face to face: obvious chemistry, eye contact and body language are still as important as ever. By attempting to simplify dating, we risk turning it into a convenience service. Can we really equate a person’s charisma to their opening line or a Tinder bio? Can their attractiveness be simplified into 4 aesthetic selfies? The chemistry of meeting someone and having an immediate *click* is not the same as a 'match', and you can not convince me otherwise.
I'm not necessarily even suggesting us reversing back to gushy romance: romance is a fairly new concept. It’s from movies and CAPITALISM. I just think we need to be equal and kind human beings, having more chats face to face. That's all really. Historically, marriages were arranged by our parents, and were usually out of convenience or financial gain. Partners were chosen for us. But in this new 21st century world, we have an overload of information — this applies to love too. I'm not making a case for arranged marriage, but I do think this abundance of choice is saturating our ability to make normal romantic connections.
Dating apps have given us the 'paradox of choice'. We have so many options that we keep swiping and swiping; we are fickle and indecisive and can't settle on a person or relationship.
By falling into this pattern, we are starting to believe that the grass is always greener. That even though this guy has a bathroom selfie of his 6-pack, that there is also someone in a 1 mile radius with a 12 pack! These apps have a built-in pedagogy; something better is always out there. Not only does this make us even more vain than we have ever been, but it also just isn't working. These apps are not a serious place to find a partner, or even a casual sex. How can this be an opportunity to make long lasting connections when most survey respondents said that their app conversations only ever lasted a few days at the most?
And can all of this really be good for our self-esteem? Constantly swiping right and never receiving a match, sending a message on a whim that goes unanswered or having a great chat only to suddenly get 'ghosted' is all real harsh rejection, even though it is on an app. And this rejection will be happening at a much more frequent rate than being occasionally rebuffed when asking for someone's a number at a bar.
It’s easier and increasingly normal to be hassled for nudes, to be using the internet to make looking for “the one” more efficient, or to just be left on read. We’re allowing ourselves to believe others are disposable cyber personalities, and not real humans behind a screen. More dangerously, however, we are becoming more and more comfortable with this mode of dehumanisation.
Clearly dating apps aren't even fulfilling their purpose of efficient hookups: love just can't be downloaded.