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  • Writer's pictureElise Braunschweiger

Why Do Dating Apps Seem Worse Than Ever?

Updated: Mar 7

Plummeting stock prices and consumer
satisfaction raise the question: "Are dating apps on the decline?"

While it may feel like they’ve been around forever, dating apps are a fairly new phenomenon, only becoming popular within the last 15 years. At first, many felt they were a revolutionary way to connect with singles in their area while being able to conveniently screen them from the comfort and safety of their homes. But over time, they’ve faced mounting criticism, with Gen Z leading the dissent.

Adding some data to the discourse, Axios and Generation Lab recently conducted a survey of 978 college-aged people, with results showing that 79% of Gen Z participants did not regularly use dating apps. Instead, they preferred to meet face to face at social outings or through their mutual friends.

For a generation so tech savvy, some are confused that gen z have abandoned the apps. I have a few theories as to why.

Firstly, the accessibility to previously inconceivable amounts of instantly-available singles is a lot for our brains to handle. Similarly to slot machines, dating apps leverage mechanisms in our brain, using things like variable ratio reinforcement, which has been proven to be a highly effective means of reinforcing behavior. Essentially, by dispersing rewards inconsistently (AKA finding a hot and exciting match on Bumble once every few weeks), our brain tells us it’s worth continuing the behavior and keeps us coming back for more, even if we mostly strike out and end up feeling awful.

Secondly, there's something particularly vulnerable about putting yourself out on a dating platform when you’re serious about finding a long-term partner, and to be met with some of the behavior reported isn’t just disheartening, it’s demotivating. One Sam Houston State University student said:

"I feel dating apps have ruined the dating scene for many people my age and ruined their self-confidence.”

The next generation seems disenfranchised and disinterested in using dating apps as their means of finding a partner, even opting in some cases to use Instagram or TikTok to connect with others instead.

Covid also exasperated the issues that so many people face while trying to date. While most single people were feeling dissatisfied with their dating lives prior to the pandemic (according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey), the overwhelming majority of those polled post pandemic said it was even harder. Moreover, investors seem to be losing faith too - Match Group, the parent company to both Hinge and Tinder, had its stock prices drop 68% last year after seeing a significant dip in paid subscriptions.

I’m sure the apps will always be around in some capacity. They’re far too convenient and accessible not to be. But I hope that we continue to find ways to not just optimize, but enjoy our dating experiences. It’s clear that the customer satisfaction of these platforms is subpar for the majority of people, but the promise of meeting someone exciting on the other end has people coming back to them for more. I’m here to tell you there are other ways to approach dating (even while using apps) which might not be as soul-sucking. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for a free consultation so we can brainstorm new dating tactics together.

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