Gina* has been using dating apps since the beginning of December, when she downloaded Facebook Dating upon seeing an advertisement. She decided to make the jump thinking she was ready to start putting herself out there. So far, she hasn’t met up with anyone, even though she wants to, because most of the people she’s matched with are only interested in sex. Gina wants a slow-burn love story, with glances across the hall and conversations where she can feel herself blushing. Even though she now uses Hinge, a dating app marketed towards finding long-term partners, Gina has yet to find the romance that she seeks.
Daisy* downloaded Tinder a couple of weeks after moving to college as a freshman. She started school with a high school boyfriend, but after just a few weeks of long-distance, they decided to call it quits. After three weeks of no sex, she started meeting up casually with people from Tinder. Her hookup stories range from disappointing to extremely eventful, although not necessarily in a good way. One date ended with her lips swollen to twice their normal size and hickies all the way down her chest. When she came back to her dorm, her friends made her lay down in bed and covered her with frozen Uncrustable sandwiches to bring down the swelling. Now, Daisy is in a long-term relationship, but she and her boyfriend still occasionally look at dating apps together when they’re bored.
Kai* has been using dating apps since his 18th birthday in high school. He’s tried pretty much every dating app under the sun – Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge – but now he mostly uses Grindr. With parents who had discouraged him from dating, Kai first found dating apps appealing because he was breaking the rules. Although he mostly uses dating apps for hookups, Kai once met a guy on Tinder he ended up dating for several months. One thing he found unhealthy about dating apps was the emphasis they place on appearances. He found himself becoming unhealthily obsessed with his image. Now, Kai has made it his New Year’s resolution to stop using dating apps in hopes of improving his mental health.
Gina, Daisy and Kai all agreed that they found it hard to stop looking at dating apps once they started. Something about the repetitive swiping, the anticipation of waiting to see if someone likes your profile back, and the inevitable gratification that comes when they do is addictive. Dating apps mimic dating but are faster, bigger, and more immediate. It sounds appealing, but the byproduct of these qualities is that dating becomes less personal. Is dating something that is better when it is more productive?
*Pseudonyms were selected to protect subjects’ privacy.