Kid in the Commitment Store: How dating applications mimic a sugar rush

Whatever your beliefs about Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid and other dating apps, they have become a staple for finding friends, dates and relationships of many types. These apps have some redeeming traits, especially in terms of convenience and avoiding potentially awkward social situations by providing an immediate, brief profile of oneself. There are — however — a lot of questions as to whether or not these apps can help us find soulmates (or at the very least, long-term romantic partners). Although few have found a romantic refuge in these chat rooms and apps, there is a general consensus that swiping right or left might not be the best way to find our Mr. or Mrs. Right.

Applications for dating and dating websites were created for fairly similar reasons: to make the search of a dating or romantic partner easier and to allow greater access to meet people from other social circles or cities. On one hand, this provides a great benefit to those who have difficulty finding the time to place themselves in organizations, clubs, or other social settings where someone could meet potential romantic partners. It also provides a benefit to those who are looking for a more casual approach to dating, or just looking to see who’s on the dating market. Apps like Tinder and Grindr are wildly successful in terms of the users and the numbers of matches created. According to Forbes, Tinder has approximately 1.2 billion profiles worldwide, with 50 million users logging on to the app every month and creating 15 million matches a day. Grindr has been downloaded over 10 million times since its inception. With such a large user base to browse from, it’s a wonder why people would even try offline dating. It is for these reasons that many use dating sites, especially in a more technologically advanced age where the internet can connect many types of people into one common setting.

In spite of their aforementioned traits, dating apps have significant downsides. Immediate issues such as false profiles, spam profiles and service glitches can plague many dating sites, and many users can run into these problems faster than they would hope. More concerning, however, is the level of commitment exercised by those who use dating apps and-whether or not face-to-face interaction has a greater benefit. The most prominent criticism of online dating — and of social media in general — is it eliminates outside social interaction with others. Outside interaction has a greater impact on emotional bonding and understanding personality. This dissociation from social environments, coupled with high user rates of dating sites, can make returning to conventional dating difficult. If anything, reading a brief profile with a few select photos seems like a rather inauthentic way to interact. Additionally, if someone’s profile is not immediately eye-catching, many will turn down an invitation to talk further.

Another prominent issue is the “Kid in the Candy Store” dilemma: when one is provided dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of choices, how does one go about filing down your possible choices to one potential partner? And if so, can they resist feeling temptation to find someone better, or in a cruder sense, an “upgrade”? With hundreds of potential partners in your city alone, it would seem difficult to make up your mind when you’re looking for someone with a complimenting personality and physical attraction. Additionally, many use dating apps for finding “friends with benefits” or physical flings which make the search for authentic romance even more difficult. With all these new challenges to an already complex task of finding a partner, online dating seems to have more bugs in the system than one would hope.

Perhaps our parents or grandparents had it right. Maybe we should follow more traditional or conventional means of meeting others and ways to approach dating. We should be more open to seeking social situations where we meet others face-to-face rather than pixel-to-pixel. Dating applications provide an appealing image while making it easy to find others interested in dating, but we should be treating our soulmate search more like a fine dining experience and less like a drive-through experience. Just because we can make certain interactions convenient doesn’t mean we should, and this can be applied to more than just dating. Don’t get me wrong, dating apps have their benefits, but until there is a greater social contract to search more for “the one”, and not “the one right now,” T.V. host Conan O’Brien’s words will continue to ring true: “I’m looking for someone to change my life…for 20 minutes”.

ILLUSTRATION BY ALEXX ELDER

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