How Tinder Destroyed Dating in America

I’m not a huge fan of the Atlantic, but every so often it pumps out a really interesting, well researched article like this one. It’s called “The 5 Years That Changed Dating: When Tinder became available to all smartphone users in 2013, it ushered in a new era in the history of romance.” I think a better title would have been, “How Tinder Destroyed Dating in America.” It starts out by noting the impact Internet dating has had which is actually much smaller than I would have anticipated,

But in 2018, seven of the 53 couples profiled in the Vows column met on dating apps. And in the Times’ more populous Wedding Announcements section, 93 out of some 1,000 couples profiled this year met on dating apps—Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, Happn, and other specialized dating apps designed for smaller communities, like JSwipe for Jewish singles and MuzMatch for Muslims. The year before, 71 couples whose weddings were announced by the Times met on dating apps.

Pretty much everyone I know under 40 has done stretches of online dating and you’re telling me less than 1 out of 10 people getting married met that way? Yes, it’s a change, but the juice is definitely not worth the squeeze for most people.

From there the writer goes on a long spiel about how wonderful online dating is that focuses heavily on anecdotes before she spends the rest of the article on the uglier side of the equation.

But other users complain of rudeness even in early text interactions on the app. Some of that nastiness could be chalked up to dating apps’ dependence on remote, digital communication; the classic “unsolicited dick pic sent to an unsuspecting match” scenario, for example. Or the equally familiar tirade of insults from a match who’s been rebuffed, as Anna Xiques, a 33-year-old advertising copywriter based in Miami, experienced. In an essay on Medium in 2016 (cleverly titled “To the One That Got Away on Bumble”), she chronicled the time she frankly told a Bumble match she’d been chatting with that she wasn’t feeling it, only to be promptly called a cunt and told she “wasn’t even pretty.”

Sometimes this is just how things go on dating apps, Xiques says. She’s been using them off and on for the past few years for dates and hookups, even though she estimates that the messages she receives have about a 50-50 ratio of mean or gross to not mean or gross.

…Perhaps the quotidian cruelty of app dating exists because it’s relatively impersonal compared with setting up dates in real life. “More and more people relate to this as a volume operation,” says Lundquist, the couples therapist. Time and resources are limited, while matches, at least in theory, are not. Lundquist mentions what he calls the “classic” scenario in which someone is on a Tinder date, then goes to the bathroom and talks to three other people on Tinder. “So there’s a willingness to move on more quickly,” he says, “but not necessarily a commensurate increase in skill at kindness.”

…Wood also found that for some respondents (especially male respondents), apps had effectively replaced dating; in other words, the time other generations of singles might have spent going on dates, these singles spent swiping. Many of the men she talked to, Wood says, “were saying, ‘I’m putting so much work into dating and I’m not getting any results.’” When she asked what exactly they were doing, they said, “I’m on Tinder for hours every day.”

“We pretend that’s dating because it looks like dating and says it’s dating,” Wood says.

….When Ingram Hodges, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, goes to a party, he goes there expecting only to hang out with friends. It’d be a pleasant surprise, he says, if he happened to talk to a cute girl there and ask her to hang out. “It wouldn’t be an abnormal thing to do,” he says, “but it’s just not as common. When it does happen, people are surprised, taken aback.”

I pointed out to Hodges that when I was a freshman in college—all of 10 years ago—meeting cute people to go on a date with or to hook up with was the point of going to parties. But being 18, Hodges is relatively new to both Tinder and dating in general; the only dating he’s known has been in a post-Tinder world.

…But, naturally, with the compartmentalization of dating comes the notion that if you want to be dating, you have to be active on the apps. And that can make the whole process of finding a partner, which essentially boils down to semi-blind date after semi-blind date, feel like a chore or a dystopian game show.

…Of course, it’s quite possible that this is a new problem created by the solving of an old one.

A decade ago, the complaint that Lundquist, the couples therapist, heard most often was, “Boy, I just don’t meet any interesting people.” Now, he says, “it’s more like, ‘Oh, God, I meet all these not-interesting people.’”

“It’s cliche to say, but it’s a numbers game,” Lundquist adds. “So the assumption is, the odds are pretty good that [any given date] will suck, but, you know. Whatever. You’ve gotta do it.”

When she talks about the flakiness of women, how dating has turned into a numbers game and the thing feeling “like a chore or a dystopian game show,” I’m guessing the majority of guys can relate.