Is it time to swipe dating apps left?

January 16, 2019 · Print This Article

Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, and their ilk, are now part our cultural currency. As the lingua franca of the dating scene, they are also synonymous with hook-ups and sexual quick-fixes, but there is something else they are being connected with.

Many are questioning the mental health implications of the habitual use of these apps. After all, your physical appearance becomes your premium currency for acceptance – we are reducing our selection of a mate to almost exclusively what we see and not what we experience. And that is leading us to places we may have never wanted to go.

Now, I’m no single, frustrated hater because other lads are bagging women and I’m not (though it’s true I’m single…for now!). But I am fascinated by how dating dynamics are being shaped by these apps.

I remember my first experience of speed dating, the real world equivalent of dating apps. (I was just there to support a friend…honest). After every contour of my countenance had been scrutinised for any sign of ugly, I was left kinda cold, but with a fascinating insight which I think relates.

Has this kind of dating brought consumerism to the most organic and exciting of processes: finding that spark between two people? Does this person-window-shopping slightly dehumanise us, reducing our worth to nothing more than our appearance and the first impression we’ve made? We have consumerised a natural process and taken some of the spontaneous beauty from it. Has being chosen been reduced to the length of time it takes to boil an egg?!

Chosen! Now there’s a word. Author and speaker, Shmuley Boteach, said the one thing humans seek above everything else is to be chosen. To be (romantically) chosen is about primacy and exclusively! But in a relationship, you get to choose. And in being chosen there is a deep awakening of something in us; we feel more human.

And so maybe the consumer-like use of dating apps for that next fix is telling us something else about our needs: we are built for meaningful connection. But dating apps seldom produce meaningful connection.

So where is this leading us? According to one psychotherapist, into behaviours that would have usually been classed as pathological and/or addictive.

It is the soothing effect of the swipe, mixed with the shot of dopamine when we find a match. But compared to our ancestors who would catch the eye of that special someone across the courtyard, we have endless photos to view (all at their best). Our marketplace is full of ‘plenty of fish’ to borrow the title of a dating website. Surely, this breeds a mindset in the user that who ever we meet, there might just be someone better, and so we keep on playing. To me, that feels unhealthy.

Maybe it is emotionally detached, too, created by low vulnerability due to low risk.  Indeed, creating this dating safe space it may have become more like a prison – a constant and unintended judge in our life telling us whether we have been chosen or not. But this has implications.

It reduces our relational currency primarily to what we look like. Reducing value to the physical. This is not sustainable, or desirable. Looks change and, in the end, they are not what holds a relationship together. So have we created a potentially perpetual loop of failure with each guy or girl coming and going, something Tinder is infamous for? Yet, it is hard to find a way out; these apps have forced a whole generation into an on-line marketplace where, if you leave it, you leave your largest pool of potentials. Truly, a dating catch-22.

So what can be some of the solutions? Here are three simple ideas:

First, consider a bespoke dating website (instead of an app) that prioritises personality and group identity. Your locus of value will shift to what is on the inside, rather than the outside.

Three years ago, I joined a public speaking club, not to find someone, but it has widened my social circle. I have made some potential life-long friendships and there is always the possibility…!

The more face-to-face social groups you can connect with, the greater the chance of finding a life-long mate. For me being part of a faith group has been a very healthy source of connection and dating pool. I’m not suggesting you do the same just for that reason, but you may find it is a healthy addition to your life.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to swipe dating apps left?

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