- Dating apps are growing in popularity, with millions of subscribers
- People who said they had addictive-style behaviors scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales
Before smartphones, singles would frequent bars and clubs in the hopes of meeting “the One,” or at the very least the one for the evening. Singles had to be on top of their game, or it was “game over” before the next day due to booze-induced bravery and a hefty bar tab.
Singles have been spared from all of this, thanks to technological advancements. We can now carry millions of potential love interests in our pockets thanks to smartphones. Only a few swipes, taps, or messages separate you from the following user.
Dating apps are becoming increasingly common, with no signs of slowing down. Match.com currently has over 7 million paying members, up from 3.4 million in 2014. Tinder claims that its app produces 1.6 billion swipes per day, resulting in 1.5 million dates per week (an average of one or two per user).
Tinder’s hookup culture isn’t what it used to be, either. According to a recent study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, consumers prefer short-term sexual relationships over one-night stands. The stigma associated with seeking a partner online is fading as more users’ preferences change.
Is all of this fast dating, however, making us happier? Most likely not.
Rejection is fundamental, even online.
You give an unanswered message to a potential match. You swipe right but never get a response. You go out on a date only to be “ghosted” the next day.
Rejection hurts, literally and figuratively. According to a 2011 report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, being turned down activates the same portion of the brain that processes physical pain.
The study’s authors wrote, “Social rejection and physical pain are similar not only in that they are both distressing, but they also share a shared representation in somatosensory brain systems.” In essence, our minds are unable to distinguish between a broken heart and a broken bone.
Instead of one rejection in a bar on a Saturday night, online dating’s success provides consumers with several more chances to be rejected.
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According to a 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Body Image, the prevalence of online dating can affect how we interpret ourselves.
A total of 1,300 (mostly college-aged) students were polled on their Tinder use, body image, and self-esteem. According to the report, men and women who use the app tend to have lower self-esteem than those who don’t. Tinder users, on average, were less happy with their bodies and appearances than non-users, according to study author Jessica Strübel.
“People who use Tinder for a long time may begin to feel depersonalized and disposable in their social interactions, develop heightened awareness (and criticism) of their looks and bodies, and assume that there is always something better around the corner, or rather with the next swipe of their phone, even while challenging the app’s functionality and requirements.”
Age of tech addiction
Tinder, Bumble, Match, Plenty Of Fish, and Zoosk are among the top 50 highest-grossing social apps in the Apple Store, with Tinder Gold, a paid “add-on” premium features, helping Tinder to become the overall top-grossing app in September.
Is there a more significant cost in convenience over well-being as dating apps grow in popularity and profitability?
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Match.com conducted a volunteer-based report on recent dating patterns last year. Although the survey was not empirical, the findings were eye-opening. Almost one-fifth of singles (15 percent) said they were addicted to the online dating process. Millennials were 125 percent more likely than other generations to confess to being addicted to dating. Men were 97 percent more likely than women to feel addicted to dating, but women were 54 percent more burned out by it.
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“People who self-described as having very addictive-style habits against the internet and cellphones scored far higher on depression and anxiety scales,” said Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois. The latter led a study linking technology addiction to anxiety and depression in 2016. Researchers polled 300 university students about their mental health, mobile phones and the internet, and reasons for using electronic devices.
“With growing evidence linking technology usage to mental health,” he said, “the relationship between motivation for cellphone or internet use and well-being warrants further study.”