Ah, dating apps. They’re one of the hallmarks of modern dating, and they tend to confuse the hell out of our parents (and often us as well). Some people swear by dating apps, saying that they might not have met their soulmate were it not for the advent of Tinder. But others, like Mariah Manoylov, argue that “dating apps dehumanize dating” and make it harder to see others as actual people and not as objects or conquests.
Look, I got a match!
There’s certainly no shortage of dating apps out there for people to use. From Tinder to eHarmony or from Grindr to OkCupid, there’s a dating app for everybody to find whatever it is that they’re looking for, whether that’s someone who shares their religious beliefs or someone who will have sex with them and respectfully never speak to them again.
On the surface, this seems like a great thing! You can find hundreds of people who like the same things that you like or who you probably wouldn’t have met or approached in real life. After all, the more bingo cards you buy, the more likely you are to win, right? But the abundance of dating apps and of the options that they give us, according to Manoylov, could be working against us.
When people are given too many choices, they can often fall victim to option paralysis. What this essentially means is that when you have a ridiculous amount of people available to you, it becomes nearly impossible to make a choice because you’re always thinking that there’s something better just around the corner. This works in reverse too — when you’re constantly thinking that there are better people around, it becomes hard to feel secure in a relationship and easy to experience a drop in self-esteem.
The problems with dating apps don’t stop there. On an app, it’s easy to fake a persona that doesn’t reflect who you actually are, and people tend to play up certain personality traits that they think are desirable. It’s gotten to the point where people can place a majority of app users in a few groups, because their profiles are just that similar. It’s almost like we’re living in Harry Potter, except the Houses are based on how many pictures you take with fish.
There’s also the issue of mismatched motives. What do you do when your intentions don’t match up with another person’s? Whether you’re the one who wants a serious relationship or the one who really only wanted an ego boost, contrasting motives can cause a lot of stress for the people involved if one or both people aren’t being honest.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve given Tinder a shot, once upon a time. It was… not great. It wasn’t terrible, either, to be honest. It was mostly just boring. Mindlessly swiping away at a screen eventually starts to lose its appeal, and I quickly realized that I would go on sprees of swiping left on people who I had barely even looked at. And when I did look at them, the smallest things would make me dismiss them — a grainy picture, an awkward smile, a fish. (I’m not in on the joke of men taking pictures with fish and I probably never will be.)
Do I believe that Tinder lowered my self-esteem? I personally don’t think so. But do I think it gave me a skewed perception of what dating is like? Probably. Even after I stopped using the app, I still find myself flirting mainly for the ego boost, and not to actually pursue relationships. I’m much more dismissive of people now, as well. After all, I’ve already seen how many guys there are out there, so why should I care about the few that are right in front of me?
It’s not all bad, though. I’ve seen my fair share of strong relationships that started online, and I’m very much aware of how important dating apps are to people who have a hard time making connections without them, like people who identify as LGBT. So my advice is not to delete your Tinder and flirt with your nearest grocery store cashier.
Instead, my advice is to follow the golden rule of dating: Communication. If you only want to hook up, be honest. If you’re hoping to marry someone from the app, just say so (although maybe don’t use the word “marriage” before you say hello). If you’re not quite sure what you want, speak up. Whatever it is, tell the other person and allow them to decide for themselves if they’re okay with it.
Next, try to be a little bit more realistic. Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (was that enough clichés?). That doesn’t mean to settle. By no means should you settle for less than you deserve. But don’t pass up on a great person just because you think that there’s some theoretical perfect human waiting out there. You’ll miss out on a lot of great people if you’ve always got one foot out the door. (Okay, that’s enough clichés.)
Lastly and most importantly, try not to forget that these people you’re swiping on are real. They’re real humans with families and interests and memories and a lot to offer the world. Maybe they’re not the one for you, but don’t let a profile picture where they wear stripes with polka dots stop you from making a real connection (no matter how heinous that combination is).