Something which I have become somewhat obsessed with in recent years is the vast impact social media has had on pretty much every aspect of modern life. We cannot compare it to anything in history and it often feels like we cannot keep up with it because no one yet knows how to harness its power due to the immense speed technology evolves at. This all-encompassing force has left virtually no element of both public and private life untouched, with dating apps providing means for us to search for potential romance whenever and wherever we want. I am conflicted on how positively I see this: whilst having their undoubted benefits, have dating apps warped the way we interact with each other and cheapened dating into something temporary and precarious?
A good place to start to address this conundrum is discussing the obvious advantages dating apps such as Tinder have brought with them. I’m not attempting to be dismissive in any way about them or their usefulness in people’s lives. Many people have had great success on such apps and found partners and I do not wish to perpetuate the strange judgement or shame often attached to online dating. There is no need to feel self-conscious or embarrassed when you have met someone online. There should be no prejudice associated with online dating: as technology evolves with the progression of humanity, it is inevitable that romantic relationships should also do the same. They provide a dedicated platform for dating which is perfect for busy modern life, and I have often heard people praise them for helping them meet people (both platonic friends and romantic partners) after moving to a new city or area. They are quick, easy and convenient and arguably bypass the awkward stages of early dating.
However, with these benefits comes various drawbacks that I think can have significant effect on modern dating and how people view themselves and their own worth or confidence. To start with, there is the obvious factor of considerable rejection and ‘ghosting’ which happens on these sites, with so many conversations and interactions coming to a dead end within a few messages. This works both ways: whilst I have often been ignored or experienced a conversation which has quickly fizzled out, I have also been the guilty party doing the ghosting. To me, ‘Tinder culture’ has almost commodified the process of dating and romance to such an extent people feel obliged to ‘sell’ themselves on these apps. For instance by choosing the most flattering possible pictures for their profile or coming up with a witty bio to showcase their humour or intelligence. This self-advertisement has potentially cheapened the process of dating into something as mundane as online shopping. Perhaps online dating has resulted in us all becoming too picky, not giving people enough of a chance to get to know them properly and judging harshly based on a select few pictures and bland small talk. We are almost spoilt for choice, always feeling as though there is an unlimited selection of people to get to know. Has this resulted in a ‘conveyer belt’ attitude of endless conversations and dead-ended romantic interactions?
I would argue that whilst this has provided undeniably greater opportunities to meet people, immediately putting us into direct contact with other single people potentially looking to date, there is a certain cynicism which has evolved alongside this process. Certainly for me, I have come to expect disappointment almost every time I talk to someone on such apps. I am used to having lots of short and nondescript conversations which come to a swift end, and many friends have also reported to experience the same. Considering this, online dating has possibly reduced the value of romance (as cliché and cringe as that sounds) into a mere pastime where people enter conversations and interactions pessimistically, not expecting them to evolve into anything of much substance. This effect is not great for one’s confidence or self-esteem. It is difficult not to internalise such rejection and place the blame on yourself for supposedly being somehow deficient or inadequate. And it is particularly difficult in this patriarchal world, which often glorifies romantic relationships and encourages people to value their worth based on their level of sexual or romantic attraction.
Despite the fact that this is an inevitable element of these sites, I cannot help but question what I have done wrong to be ghosted by people or why meaningful interactions never seem to evolve from them. There is also the question of uncertainty and ambiguity when online dating. Although (generally speaking) a person’s presence on a dating site alone implies their non-platonic motive, it is often unclear what someone is looking for. Whilst one person may be seeking a date or relationship, others may be simply after a hook-up. This complicates things, clouding the whole process and leaving people vulnerable to disappointment or upset.
However, although online dating and Tinder have contributed new layers to the complexities of dating and romance, which are incomparable and unparalleled to times before (I doubt the Victorians had to deal with the awkwardness of seeing the person who ignored your Tinder message in Sainsbury’s), we should not dismiss their value. As long as we accept them for what they are, not necessarily expecting marriage and kids from the first person you speak to and accept the fact that some disappointment may arise, dating apps are just as valid for meeting people as any other. Dating has moved with the times and so should attitudes towards modern dating: the strange shame and stigma attached to apps such as Tinder should swiftly dissipate and people should embrace their presence on these sights with pride!
Roisin Julia is 21 years old and has recently graduated from Manchester Met studying history. She’s interested in all things feminism/politics/current affairs.