As Valentine’s Day approaches quickly, we at the Technique want to discuss how dating apps have shaped norms surrounding dating — especially for younger, more impressionable people like college students. It is impossible to talk about a paradigm shift without recognizing the world that came before it, but it is difficult for us on the Editorial Board to remember a world before online dating because it has existed in some shape or form for most of our lives.
In an increasingly digital world where most of us were raised online, it makes sense that we want to stick to spaces we are comfortable with to confront the very uncomfortable realities of finding love.
However, a lack of real world consequences when socializing online normalizes a casualness in pursuing people romantically that is now more callous than ever before.
A very common example of this is the practice of ghosting, where someone will end a potential relationship without explanation simply by stopping all communication.
In a situation where you met your partner through a friend, which was a more common practice before dating apps existed, this would be considered unacceptable by most due to the repercussions you would face from your friends.
Furthermore, the relative newness of dating apps in mainstream culture has allowed for an environment that is effectively lawless. Traditional ideas of how to treat a partner or a friend have grown distant in the face of this new in-between. Consequently, this can lead to a relationship dynamic where there is a fundamental lack of respect.
This has directly led to the commodification of love as apps treat the search for relationships like a game, complete with a user interface that allows for split-second decisions based on visual appearances and minimal facts.
Through this, dating apps also effectively lead people to quantify their own attractiveness or viability to be in a relationship based on superficial reasons.
For example, dating apps encourage largely surface-level conversations rather than the deeper and more meaningful conversations you often have in person. Moreover, some dating apps have been heralded as allowing women more power in relationship dynamics and empowering women like Bumble.
However, apps like Tinder can place women in positions to be harassed or shamed for expressing the same desires to participate in hookup culture as men. Even apps like Bumble, which creates a safeguard by allowing only women to send the first message after matching, still leave people in a position where they feel like they must act a certain way to be in a relationship. At the end of the day, Bumble is a step forward toward finding a solution to the multifaceted issue of power imbalances in relationships, buy it is only the start.
Another group of people who are disproportionately impacted by dating apps is LGBTQIA+ people. Grindr, a gay dating app, has faced much criticism for the dangerous culture and fetishization people have practiced through anonymous profiles. The lack of a variety of options for LGBTQIA+ people to date online is disheartening considering how many in the community have found safe spaces on the internet.
Mainstream applications, like Bumble and Hinge, have worked to be more inclusive and this may signify the beginning of LGBTQIA+ friendly spaces on these applications. Regardless, more companies need to take initiative to make their platforms more inclusive.
Whether they’re ideal or not, it is an indisputable fact that dating apps are here to stay. However, if we are to make dating a more enjoyable experience, we encourage a larger prioritization of safety by platforms that could implement policies to limit who can view your profile and who can share it.
By doing this, trends such as ridiculing other people’s profiles, a popular one on TikTok right now, could be prevented. In addition, we encourage greater awareness about the risks of using a dating app and having a better understanding of how to be safe on one.
Finally, we hope that there is a shift in how we view love and to remember that even though we are meeting these people in a virtual world, their feelings very much exist in the real one.