It starts with a swipe: the true repercussions of dating apps

As of 2023, many young people aren’t meeting their significant other at work, at a coffee shop or in their classes. Instead, a great number of relationships are beginning by swiping right or sending a like on one of the many dating apps currently available. 

Since the introduction of Tinder and Hinge in 2012, dating apps have gained immense popularity throughout the world, and in doing so have changed the way that people think about and interact with potential partners. 

A study conducted by Pew Research Center found that 48% of 18 to 29-year-olds reported using dating apps, with even higher percentages among members of the LGBTQ+ community. While other generations use these apps as well, they have their deepest effect on young people today. 

While there are certainly good aspects of dating apps, such as feeling safer meeting in person after conversing online, as well as being able to intentionally match with people with similar interests, there are also clear downsides to using dating apps to find a partner. These apps pose the risk of encouraging surface-level relationships and can be emotionally detrimental to many users. 

Dating apps encourage surface-level relationships based on their very nature. With the huge emphasis placed on physical appearance and the limited information a person’s dating app profile provides, it is easy to develop connections with someone regardless of actual compatibility. 

Many facets of an online persona allow people to put on a front, and the way they appear and behave on dating apps or through texting may be completely different from who they are in person. Even though somebody may seem like the ideal partner through a screen, they may be completely different in reality. 

It is difficult to truly judge a person or a future relationship from the connection that is formed online, and this is a major factor in the surface-level relationships that so often are a result of apps like Tinder, Hinge or Bumble. 

Besides the risk of meeting someone completely different from how they portray themselves online, dating apps have a deeper emotional impact on the people who use them.

A study conducted by Western Sydney University found that dating app users experienced higher levels of anxiety, depression and emotional distress than people not using dating apps. While there may be a variety of reasons for this, it is clear that dating apps are not the confidence boosters or fun way to pass the time that they may seem at first glance. 

One of the primary reasons dating apps are so detrimental is the way in which they lead people to internalize appearance ideals. Because swipe-based dating apps are so largely based on physical appearance, users can put enormous pressure on themselves to create a stereotypically attractive profile.

Another emotionally detrimental aspect of these dating apps is the ease with which people on the app can be reduced to a picture on a profile, rather than a real person with real feelings. The rate at which many people will “swipe” on the app can turn it into more of a game than anything else, and it can be easy to forget the emotional impact that online interactions truly have.

Conversing online is very different from face-to-face interaction. Because of the ease with which dating app users can first interact, flirt and form connections online, it can in turn become more difficult for them to develop in-person relationships and have meaningful interactions. 

As dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge continue to gain popularity and younger generations continue to utilize the internet as a way to form connections, people need to be wary of how these apps and interactions are truly affecting them, and consider whether the apps are as fun and harmless as they may appear at first glance — or first swipe.

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