Dating apps have transformed how we find love - but some jaded swipers now long for more traditional ways of discovering The One.
The past five years have seen a boom in dating apps, transforming the once stigmatised world of online dating into a way of life - particularly for millennials.
The most popular tool in the digital singleton's arsenal is Tinder, an app that serves up a seemingly endless stream of faces, and asking us to swipe left for no and right for yes.
Convenient, yes. But there is an element which appears shallow and surprisingly time consuming.
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With digital dating, there are several steps before a date is even suggested or agreed. Often there is around a week of talking before someone plucks up the courage to suggest going for a drink. Previously, if you were to meet someone in a pub you might just exchange a couple of texts before selecting a date and time to properly meet up. While tech is supposed to make our lives easier, it has actually just added another lengthy layer to the dating experience.
Imogen*, 24, from London is tired of the long process of app-dating: “Keeping up with guys that you don't even know if you like yet because you haven't met them takes up so much time. I'm not very keen on texting as it is, I would rather arrange to meet up and then talk on the date. Otherwise, you have run out of talking material from all your messaging and have nothing new to ask or say when you meet face to face.
“It is too much effort unless someone takes control and gets a date booked in after a few days so you can cut the crap and see whether there's enough chemistry to keep texting. On my short stint on Bumble [a dating app where women have to initiate the conversation] I ended up spending an entire evening just catching up on all the messages I'd got replies from – exhausting.”
Suzanne agrees that “chatting in itself has become a thing”. She really enjoyed internet dating around 15 years ago but says it has now become infiltrated by people looking for something casual or not even looking for anything at all.
“If I had to pick any favourite time for dating, it was definitely the early 2000s. I met so many wonderful people online during that time, many of whom I am still friends with. The internet was self-selecting, in that not everyone had a computer... Now, there is the expectation that the date will be cancelled at short notice or won't turn up at all.
“I know a lot of young men who have told me they flick through pictures on Tinder while sitting on the loo. They have no interest in meeting anyone on it.”
However, she also suggests this isn’t just exclusive to millennial men: “There are just so many time wasters and, at 56, I just can’t be bothered. Older men can be the worst because they didn't grow up with the internet so, for them, it really can be a candy store.”
Dating apps have become typically associated with arranging hook-ups and casual flings over meaningful, long-term relationships. While this might be fine if it’s what both people are looking for, it can be difficult for people who do want something more serious. In 2015, Vanity Fair ran an article on the internet dating scene in New York City which they likened to a ‘Dating Apocalypse’.
“I think a lot of people view dating apps as hook up apps and the new way of 'pulling on a night out' which is fine if it's mutual, but if not it gives the apps a bad name,” says River*, 25.
Perhaps even for people who did join an app as single-and-ready-to-mingle, seeing the plethora of options on swipes and the mighty levels of power that come with literally swiping someone aside if they don’t fit your brief, it has stopped people meeting someone they otherwise might give a chance if they met in person.
River describes the “ease of the swipe” as sometimes being a hindrance to actually deciding on someone to meet up with.
“You are always thinking that there is someone better on the next swipe,” she says. “Or after your one ‘okay’ date you might get straight back to Tinder without giving someone date number two.”
Elle, a 33-year-old creative from east London, says apps have replaced the days of risk-taking because of unrealistic expectations of perfection.
“The stakes were higher, you had to be really sure that you liked that person and were willing to take the risk, therefore the reward was much sweeter and the risk, sometimes worth it,” she says. “Those days are gone now that matches are instantly won, lost and unmatched and a catalogue roster of willing victims await when things don't go precisely the way one might want them to play out. This, in turn, has lowered people's ability to compromise and tolerance of anything less than perfect is now non-existent.”
Barbara Bloomfield, a counsellor at Relate relationship services,says she thinks people in today’s world are yearning for a deeper connection but “the speed of superficiality of modern dating can work against that”.
River says that because of the many people looking for casual relationships you have to be prepared for rejection.
“I think you have to have a thick skin and be prepared for rejection and to reject people - you're meeting someone based on their photos and their texting small talk (people have longer to compose and think through a message unlike in real life).”
Despite the negative feelings some have towards dating apps and websites, there is no doubt that they are here to stay for the meantime. Technology is ever evolving so these inventive ways of finding people to date are unlikely to diminish. More than a quarter of new relationships in the UK now originate from talking on a dating website or app and for young adults, being single is practically synonymous with having a Tinder profile ( I personally know several very happy couples who met on Tinder and would not have met if it were not for the app.)
However, like everything, it is a choice. And too much of anything can be detrimental. At the beginning of the year, River decided to take a hiatus as dating was becoming a bit of a drag.
“I was going on 2-3 dates a week and the hangover was killing me,” she jokes. But on a more serious note, her self-esteem began to be affected when she found the lack of first dates developing into seconds disheartening.
Bloomfield says burnout can happen when all dates start to look the same and you are not excited by the prospect anymore.
“Unless you are exceptionally sociable, meeting new people can be stressful and incredibly tiring, as well as fun. It almost becomes a job of work called “finding The One’… Daters can become aware of an addictive element in their own behaviour, swiping through dozens of people in a short time, and finding no one that satisfies,” she told The Independent.
Bloomfield suggests slowing everything down and says if you have tried and not enjoyed internet dating, there still are other ways to meet people.
“Slow everything down. Stop swiping. Go deeper into yourself and explore new ways of meeting people. Start to become a 'conversational artist,' famous among your friends for asking interesting questions and connecting with people and politics in the wider world.
“Tell your friends you are looking for a relationship [if this is the case] so they can help you. Peruse the small ads but don't get addicted to the porridge pot of infinite possibilities offered by the internet. Get new experiences and go to new places. Challenge yourself to do one slightly adventurous thing per week. Think creatively about your interests and you will start to meet a new set of people.”
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