Are We Finally Acknowledging That Dating Apps Suck?

After a decade of dominance, data shows that dating apps are in decline. Are we finally acknowledging that dating apps suck?

By Meghan Dillon4 min read
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The first time I ever downloaded Tinder was in the spring of 2014. I was a college sophomore, and all my single friends were on it. To be honest, it felt like a game, an addicting game.

I wanted a serious relationship but didn’t want to admit it. I naively thought that one could come about from Tinder (while that’s possible, it’s not the norm) and got addicted to the swiping game. I loved seeing matches pop up in my profile, giving me an instant ego boost. There was something about knowing that someone thought I was beautiful that made me feel good, but that feeling faded away when I realized that most of the guys I matched with wanted nothing more than a hookup. I thought this would change if I tried other apps like Bumble or Hinge, and while they weren’t as bad, I constantly found myself in the same cycle of downloading an app, using it for a few weeks, and then deleting it after realizing that it always ends in disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pull a “woe is me.” I know it wasn’t healthy for me (or anyone involved) to seek validation from these apps, and I should have known to expect dirtbags on an app that’s infamous for hookups.

Dating Apps Are in Decline

When I first realized that I hated dating apps, I thought I was alone. I remembered so many of my friends raving about them when we were in college, but I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one becoming disenchanted with these apps that were once considered revolutionary. At first, I thought that my friends and I had just grown out of that phase, but the data suggests otherwise. 

According to Bloomberg, Tinder users are declining. While the same data shows that apps like Bumble and Hinge are growing, as a whole, dating apps seem to have hit their flop era. Similar data shows that all dating apps and websites except Hinge are losing more users than they’re gaining.

Why is this happening? You could argue that Gen Z seems to be over hookup culture (which is true to an extent), but there’s also an argument that these apps are designed to create meaningful or long-term relationships – but are failing. A lot of this has to do with the way people treat each other on dating apps. 27-year-old Amy from London told The Guardian, “Everyone’s got so flakey. When you meet someone through an app, you have no loyalty to that person, they don’t know your friends, they don’t work with you, so it’s all too easy for them to not follow up on promises.”

This is painfully relatable. I’ve lost count of how many times I thought I was connecting with a guy on a dating app only to get ghosted or for the conversation to fizzle out. It can be difficult to know where you stand, especially when you face the pressure of wanting to appear cool and casual instead of clingy and desperate for a relationship. It takes time and effort to get to know someone, and dating apps simply aren’t designed to do that. If enough people are having enough negative experiences, it makes sense why there’s an exodus off dating apps. 

Swiping Left Has Real-Life Negative Impacts 

According to a 2016 study, Tinder users had lower self-esteem than their peers who didn’t use Tinder. Researchers interviewed 1,300 college students and college-aged young adults, asking them questions regarding their self-esteem and how they compared themselves to others. The results were that both young men and women who used Tinder had lower self-esteem, with the women having slightly lower self-esteem than the men. 

The results surprised the study’s co-author, Trent Petrie, a psychology professor at the University of North Texas. Petrie told Time magazine, “If they used Tinder, they reported more negative scores on all of our measures. We thought that was pretty interesting, given the fact that gender usually plays a role in how women and men respond to these types of questionnaires. The men, in essence, are put in a position that women often find themselves in, certainly in the dating scene: They’re now being evaluated and are being determined whether or not somebody is interested in them [based on their looks]. Men may be more likely to get more swipe-lefts. And that can take a toll, perhaps, on those young men.”

The results of this study indicate a fairly commonsense conclusion – being judged by strangers based purely on your appearance isn’t good for your self-esteem, no matter your gender. 

The ability to swipe left on a person and reject them in a matter of microseconds has also contributed a negative change to dating culture. Modern dating trends like ghosting show that these apps encourage selfish, entitled, and even cruel behavior, and it only makes sense when you look at how dating apps are designed. The apps are designed for you to swipe left or right on someone based on their profile. It reduces people to their profiles. They’re no longer three-dimensional human beings with hopes and dreams, but just a small collection of pictures and a short bio that you pass judgment on – you either approve or reject a human – in a matter of seconds.

The truth is that you might be attracted to a guy IRL who you would have swiped left on in a dating app because he uploaded a bad photo or had a poorly written profile. When you meet someone in person, you can get more of a sense of who they really are. You can become attracted to the sound of his laugh, the smell of his cologne, or the way electricity shoots through you when his hand touches yours. If that’s not enough to get you to want to ditch your dating apps and look into meeting someone IRL, I don’t know what is.  

Easy Ways To Meet a Guy IRL

The unfortunate truth is that our culture is so used to dating apps that it will likely take time for meeting a guy IRL to become a normal thing again. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use in the meantime.

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

Many of us wrongly assume that the best place to meet a guy is a bar. In reality, you can meet someone anywhere. If you see a cute guy at the grocery store, dog park, or library, don’t be afraid to shoot him a smile or say hello.

Ask Your Friends To Set You Up

Your friends likely know your type or who’s good for you as well as you do (or even better), making them a good judge of character for a potential match. Don’t hesitate to ask your friends if they know someone they can set you up with – it could be the beginning of a beautiful love story. If none of your friends know anyone, don’t be discouraged because they now know to keep their eyes peeled for someone who could be the right match for you.

Try New Places

If you keep looking in the same place and can’t seem to find a connection, it might be time to venture out and explore a new spot. It might seem like a lot of work, but it can be as simple as trying a different coffee shop down the street every once in a while.

Closing Thoughts

Dating apps have been dominant in dating culture since Tinder launched in 2012. The result has been a broken dating culture and young adults riddled with self-esteem issues. It’s safe to say that it’s been a net negative for society, which means the steady decline of Tinder can only be a good thing for us all.

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