Dating Apps in the 21st Century

The prevailing attitudes behind dating in the 21st Century will be normalized by today’s college students and young adults.

Studies show that today’s online dating apps are creating pathological narcissists.

Whether that scares you or not is determinate of your upbringing, your own dating experience, and the state of your family. Those three combined equal your own perception of dating that your circumstances have created for you. But just because online dating is changing the way we find partners doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad.

The deliverance of Tinder to the market changed everything by delivering convenience and unlimited customization right to your fingertips. You have the ability to swipe wherever you are, whenever you want to: swipe on your lunch break, on a walk in the park, at home with the family, while walking the dog, whatever, something users of previous dating applications never had the ability to do.

What’s more is how the companies that own today’s popular dating apps monetize them. It’s more of a game now. You can subscribe and receive benefits that free users don’t have, like being able to undo a left-swipe and see who’s already liked you to increase your chances of finding a match. The appeasing nature of mobile dating draws you in and this exclusive functionality keeps you there.

While all this innovation is great, it complicates and actually damages the effectiveness of dating, especially in college.

Nothing is obvious anymore.

The convenience and mobility of dating apps destroys standards and invites deception. You can sell yourself as someone entirely different than who you really are and get away with it completely with no remorse. No-show’s and dating disappointments skyrocket; just because you’ve matched with somebody doesn’t mean you have to meet them.

There’s something about putting in the effort to meet somebody in public and cultivating a healthy relationship that sends more dopamine hits than getting a match on Tinder ever will. But the “work” that used to come with finding someone has all been compressed into simply swiping on an app and hoping for the best. You no longer have to study up on your witty pick-up lines and you no longer have to muster up the courage to go and talk to that person you’ve been looking at the entire night. Why even bother when chances are high that he or she is on Tinder anyway?

The greatest danger that comes with relying on dating apps is creating any sort of expectation. While it’s totally valid to rest all your dating efforts on dating apps, you have to change your mindset completely.

Throw out those old textbooks.

Don’t expect Prince Charming to hit you up with a romantic sonnet. Don’t expect her to appreciate your chivalry (how can she when everything’s digital?) and don’t expect that landing a first date will land you a second one. Despite the convenience, using dating apps requires more work than going about it the old-fashioned way.

No matter how they’re marketed, dating apps only function as a bridge that nicely connects the islands of loneliness and companionship. That’s it, there’s no fancy process and no guaranteed result. It’s actually very formulaic. You have to know what you’re looking for and you have to be able to handle rejection very well to reach any sort of pleasurable outcome.

You may think you know, but you really don’t.

All of the happiness that comes with matching with someone on Tinder begins and ends with that match. As soon as you get that notification, it’s over. It can go either way now. You may never talk to that person or you may have a great conversation. But it still doesn’t end there. You can still have a great conversation and never meet that person once, and what do you do when that happens?

You feel all expectation shatter. Suddenly you’re depressed and wondering why your so-called “match” isn’t responding to your messages. You don’t understand it and swear off dating apps until the rejection subsides and you’re right back in it.

And what happens when your match does respond to your messages? You get bored after a while. You haven’t met this person so there’s no true mental image of him or her in your head yet, no fantasy of what this and that may be like with him or her. You’re not even sure this person is who he or she really says he or she is. After some time, what’s really driving you to continue talking to this person?

This is why you have to know what you’re looking for in order to truly enjoy online dating. If it’s a hook-up you’re after, communicate that. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, communicate that. Nothing ever gets done when everything is up in the air and nobody is ever sure where anyone is at. And since these dating apps don’t require you to state your goals, the only real way to discover those is through talking to that person, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything.

So what’s the point?

Dating apps remedy (while they produce) laziness.

It all comes down to effort and just how much young people want nothing to do with it. This has been the case with all generations, it’s not specific to today’s millennials like some people are so inclined to believe (although technology has most certainly spoiled us). It’s human nature to find the path of least resistance. To young people today, that’s dating apps, and that human nature is most prevalent in people who still have yet to experience the majority of life.

But you don’t get to be lazy and expect dating apps to do all the work. That’s the misappropriation that has poisoned online dating.

When you match with somebody, take the time to talk to him or her. You should even take the time to meet that person. You swiped for a reason. How can you know what you’re missing out on if you don’t even try to find it? Assuming only makes it worse.

And if you can’t even do that, consider taking some time to yourself to figure out what it is you’re truly searching for.

You should also refrain from using dating apps to boost your ego. Post all the half-naked pictures you want, you’re only damaging yourself by collecting matches and not responding to a single one. Not only are you self-objectifying, but when you do get into a serious relationship and suddenly can’t handle the commitment, you’ll wonder why.

So remember: dating apps aren’t evil, but you absolutely have to know 1) how to use them and 2) what you’re looking for to use them effectively. Fail to recognize either of these and you’ll trap yourself in an endless cycle.