What Swipe Culture Has Done to Dating

With great technology comes great challenges.

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

We want everything at our fingertips, and companies oblige. Or, we want everything at our fingertips because apps and distributors of goods and services have spearheaded efforts to give it to us, so now we’ve grown accustomed. We want everything in abundance, yet faster and straightforward.

Introducing the swipe-driven interface, where users reject or accept options with a simple brush of the thumb. This works great for some things, not so well with others — such as cultivating human interaction. Swipe culture has taken over many platforms, most notably those in the dating world.

The process of matching with potential partners has become quicker and easier than ever. Now, we don’t even have to select a ‘not interested’ box or offer a “you seem great, but….” response. We just swipe left for “no” and right for “yes.” I can appreciate this to some degree. I enjoy not having to invest time into conversations out of obligation. I like the idea of matching and communicating only with people when there has been a mutual choosing. Swiping is not an essential element in accomplishing this, however, it just makes the whole thing less cumbersome.

We can swipe while standing in line at a grocery store, waiting at a stoplight or in between tasks. It’s convenient. Literally takes one second and you don’t even need both hands.

Left — Left — Left — Left — Left — Doh! I meant right — Left- Left — Left — Right is usually about how it goes.

I don’t want to be that person who laments over how things used to be as they evolve, or gripes about how kids these days and technology have ruined everything. But for real, some stuff has actually been ruined. There are ways in which the abundance of dating apps and swipe culture have improved the process. It’s easier than ever to meet new people. There is the possibility of connecting with someone you may have never encountered otherwise. I view that as a positive. Yet, the dating process has also been deteriorated in many ways.

With swipe culture, there are a lot of inauthentic connections. Before, when you got up the nerve to approach someone and risk ego-bruising rejection, you had to be genuinely interested in them. Now we just say yes to people because they’re, well, there — and it takes almost no effort. Matching is like a game. Because it’s so quick and easy to do, people can just swipe out of pure boredom, with no intention of acting on the results. That’s why there’s so many dead-end matches where no one ever says anything.

Many users swipe left or right without even reading through a person’s profile. Many others don’t even bother to write anything. It’s just, here’s some pics. Smash or pass? There isn’t much thought given to the exchange. I like how apps such as Bumble and Tinder have reorganized layouts so that “About Me” sections are displayed more prominently. This helps. Still, the very nature of the feature just doesn’t really encourage meaningful interaction.

Too much of anything isn’t good, that includes options. The same accessibility that opens the door for us to make unlikely acquaintances also overloads us with choices. This leads to analysis paralysis, having so many options that we can’t decide on one. Or, we have a fear of missing out. We find someone seemingly great, but can’t shake the thought that there may be someone even better out there. So, we just keep swiping, even though the idea of this person is completely ambiguous. We don’t know what ‘better’ looks like. We’re just never satisfied enough to commit.

And we don’t have to, commit, that is. Because if someone doesn’t like it, we grow annoyed with them, or we’re just over the whole situation, we know there are thousands more people out there we can sift through. We don’t have to work anything out. Our swiping thumb stays ready. There’s always been plenty of fish in the sea, but now the sea is in our backyard.

That’s modern dating for you — Swipe culture, meaningless interactions and treating people like they’re disposable. The saddest part is, they kind of are. Anyone who’s ever used a dating app has probably been guilty of such behavior.

Author of a critically-acclaimed book on women and dating. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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