Opinion: Why the young and the single can’t commit to dating apps

Among young singles today, dating-app fatigue is real. The popularity of in-person dating events and the eagerness of some users to take a sabbatical from swiping both point to a shift among members of Generation Z. — Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Alexa Valavicius is 28, single and off dating apps since 2021. How come?

She quit Hinge and Bumble, the only two platforms she was on, when she realised that getting a good read on people was difficult based on their profiles.

“I’m someone who is very attracted to someone’s energy, and it’s very hard to gauge that in an app,” Valavicius, a seventh-grade teacher who lives in Chicago, said in an interview.

Although she has never been in a relationship, she doesn’t believe she’s going to meet the love of her life via a screen: “I feel like my ideal partner is someone who is not spending their free time on apps.”

Among young singles today, dating-app fatigue is real. The popularity of in-person dating events and the eagerness of some users to take a sabbatical from swiping both point to a shift among members of Generation Z. And that weariness is being felt by the largest dating-app companies, Match Group and Bumble, both of which have reported poor revenue growth and have laid off workers.

One main reason? They’re struggling to connect with younger daters.

On TikTok, Reddit and Instagram, young people don’t hold back about the reasons they have had it with dating platforms: Swiping is starting to feel too transactional and unnatural. They distrust the dating-app companies and are sick of fake profiles. They’re not interested in hookup culture. Other social platforms are better for meeting people – often organically and at no cost.

Deja Chanel, 25, said she had been using dating apps, mostly Hinge, since 2021. Because she is a full-time content creator and spends most of the day working from her Nashville, Tennessee, home, she said, it was difficult to meet people in real life. She deleted the app for good in January.

“It felt like I wasn’t being shown anyone that I was actually attracted to,” Chanel said. On Hinge, a separate feed called Standouts occasionally included men she was attracted to, but she couldn’t communicate with them unless she paid more money to first send them digital roses.

“So there clearly are men on Hinge that I want that Hinge knows that I want,” she said. “Like, these are men I would go for in real life, and men I would love to be exposed to on dating apps, and they’re hiding them behind a paywall.”

Valavicius, who has been on at least five dating-app dates in her life, believes that “now that they’re profiting so much off single people”, app companies have little incentive to help users in their quest for love.

“In my opinion, dating apps are for people who are kind of desperate for something,” she said. “That’s not to say that people can’t find good things on dating apps. I know people who have. But it’s a quick fix, especially if you’re feeling lonely and isolated.”

Travis Chen, an account executive at a tech company in Seattle, said he had soured on dating apps after experiencing one too many moments of prematch dishonesty.

“In a lot of these instances, people were inauthentic, they were not providing real information, they were hiding behind a screen,” Chen, 25, said in a phone interview.

“Oftentimes, people show their best photos or lie about their statistics on dating apps, and it creates this persona that isn’t even true,” he added.

Given that he was in his early 20s at the start of the pandemic, he also points to lockdown restlessness and a necessary overreliance on the Internet to socialise as additional causes for his dating-app fatigue. Since leaving dating apps in 2021, he has since been able to meet potential dates at work events, happy hours and friends-of-friends’ parties.

In a recent TikTok video, British singer Yoshe Rose argued that with so many people on the apps not actually serious about dating, users were better off cutting their losses. “Don’t wait till tomorrow,” she said. “Don’t wait and try and match just one more person ’cause that person might be your person. Delete it today. Delete it right now.”

“You match, you start talking. Their replies are a little shaky, but, you know, hey, not everyone’s on their phone all the time. You start getting into conversation, it’s flowing and then the person says to you, ‘Oh, I don’t really have much time to commit to dating,’ yet – you are on a dating app,” she said in the video clip.

“Does that sound like the thought process of a sane person, let alone somebody that you want to date?” she added.

After being on and off dating apps for nearly a decade, my own frustration with dating apps hit a peak two years ago. My matches quickly felt like pen pals, except that conversations would rarely continue past a day or two. I realised that being on the apps gave the illusion that I was putting effort into my dating life, when really I was spending a couple hours a week swiping for 30 minutes and calling it a day. And my self-confidence was taking a hit.

Surprisingly, I find that my dating life is more active since giving up the apps in the fall of 2022. Knowing that I’ve eliminated them as an option to meet people has made me more inclined to engage in conversation with a stranger at a cafe, bookshop or house party.

Although people may be leaving dating apps, it’s not always forever. Clay Lute, a 23-year-old fashion merchandiser living in Queens, New York, redownloaded Hinge a month ago after taking a break from the apps for about a year because of “swiping fatigue”. The process had started to feel “like a video game”, he said. But now that summer is approaching, he wants to see if it will be different this time around.

“If by the time July comes around and there’s nothing on there, I’m probably going to take another year off,” he said. “I think it’s honestly something I can only try three or four months out of the year.”

Chanel said it hadn’t been easy meeting new people in real life, but she had gotten dates after connecting with people on social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok.

“The year is young, so I’m remaining optimistic,” she said. “I feel like if I keep putting myself out there, then I can meet someone naturally, like they did in the olden days before social media.”

And even though meet-cutes in the wild have been rare, she said she had at least one this year that resulted in a date. “I met him at Kroger, which was random.” – The New York Times

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