Let’s Talk About Dating Apps

It’s been about seven months since COVID-19 began to impact our lives in the United States. Although the virus made headlines months before, it was the second week of March that changed the way we have been interacting with our friends, family and even strangers. With changes in how we shop, how we learn and how we celebrate, it may come as a shock to learn that the way many of us find love hasn’t changed this year. 

According to research conducted by Kaspersky, one in three people are dating online. Bumble, Tinder, Grinder, Hinge and dozens of other dating apps have been the starting point for millions of relationships, hookups and the occasionally awkward first date.

People are on these dating apps for several different reasons, but the profiles are usually the same. Four pictures, one bio and way too many references from The Office. (For my sanity, please stop using pictures of the animals you’ve killed. I promise it doesn’t impress us.)

With billions of people on dating apps, however, it leaves a lot room for improvement.

As someone who frequently downloads and deletes Bumble, I have had many encounters myself. Sometimes, it’s a cute back and forth with a girl where we call each other pretty for five minutes and then never speak again. And other times, it is a guy telling me that I shouldn’t be on the app if I’m not willing to “put out.”

I have heard so many horror stories both from friends and scrolling through social media where people express how they do not feel safe on these apps. According to Ozy, 85% of dating app users feel unsafe on these platforms.

Whether for technical security or because their matches threaten them, the statistic is unacceptably high.

How do we improve how people feel on these apps? Match Group, which owns Tinder, Match, Meetic, OkCupid, Hinge, Pairs, PlentyOfFish, OurTime and other brands, doesn’t perform background checks on any of its users. A ProPublica report (trigger warning for sexual assault) accounted for a few incidents in which registered sex offenders went on dates with women who had no idea of their history. So, a great first place to start would be actually performing background checks on the people you allow onto your platforms before allowing them to harm others.

Another great start would be to address what makes most women feel uneasy on and offline: misogyny. We match with men who we initially found physically attractive and they act as if we owe them something, like sleeping with them in order to fulfill our end of the bargain. And when you let them know that that isn’t the purpose of your presence on the app, they say the most hurtful and disrespectful things. What do women owe you and why do you feel the constant need to demand things of women who are not indebted to you?

Toxic masculinity is extremely prevalent in the United States. Men are expected to take control and “be the man,” but in doing this, it implies that they always have to have control: over themselves, over their lives and, apparently, over women’s bodies.

By addressing the need for background checks to inform people of violent pasts and addressing the misogyny that can lead to violent futures, we can make the dating world feel much safer.

Until then, remember that you don’t owe anyone a single thing. Your body is your own, and every decision you make with it is your choice. And don’t forget to always trust your gut.