When it comes to finding love and romance, more and more people are relying on newer, easier ways to connect, with an increasingly popular tool being dating apps. If you’re looking to use one this season, read on for a brief intro to what they are—and what to be wary of.
The rise of dating apps
The idea of virtually finding partners can be traced to 1995, the launch year of the dating website Match.com, which came with a gamut of criteria options and had various dating sites emerging in its wake.
Following the success of these sites, dating apps have arisen with refined features in customization and nearby match–finding. Tinder, for instance, shows users the profiles of potential matches, which they can swipe right (to indicate interest and hopefully get matched) or left (if uninterested). With more swipes, more data is collected, overall improving the algorithm’s accuracy in predicting and presenting profiles that users will likely find attractive.
Over the years, Tinder and other dating apps have surged in popularity, recognized for various benefits. According to a study by Dr. Gina Potarca, a University of Geneva researcher, dating apps help widen the match pool, including candidates from more varied social, educational, and geographical backgrounds.
But it was during the pandemic when this popularity skyrocketed—Tinder recorded as many as 300 billion swipes daily. As parts of the world went under lockdown, forced to adjust to working and studying online, those apps provided users with a means to connect with others in ways unachievable in real life. With opportunities to connect like virtual dates, many users were able to stay mentally well—after all, humans are social creatures and continuous isolation due to the pandemic has been associated with risks of depression, dementia, and insomnia.
However, despite the great things offered by dating apps, there are underlying issues you must be aware of.
What to watch out for as a user
As suggested by Jeanette Purvis, who has experiences studying social psychologist at the University of Hawaii, Tinder is set up to implement psychological conditioning effects on its users. This means that users are rewarded for staying, with the carrot being the long-awaited perfect match. The catch is that users may get hooked, uncannily and dangerously similar to the process of developing drug addictions. This can be linked to disturbances in the regulation of dopamine, a chemical important in mechanisms of pleasure and motivation.
Additionally, as part of a 2019 survey from Pew Research Center, 57% of American women (18 to 34 years old) who used online dating platforms had received explicit content. While this problem is not specific to the dating world, this does show that young women are more likely to be targeted, with online harassment like this potentially leading to consequences including debilitating stress, safety concerns, and interpersonal conflicts—if not more serious.
The final word
The effects of using dating apps continue to be researched and debated. While they do help connect people and satisfy users looking for perfect matches, dating apps should still be used with caution—recall the detrimental potential for addiction and online harassment.
Of course, users’ experiences vary, with light users possibly never facing these issues. However, the fact remains that users of online dating platforms have been harmed and there’s no promise you won’t be.
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