Me, Myself, and My Selfie: Are Dating Apps Helping or Hurting?
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
It’s a lazy Tuesday evening and I find myself at The Bowery Hotel, nursing an old fashioned and people-watching. I make eye contact with a few of the lobby lingerers, wondering if any of these stylish strangers might be my soul mate. Losing interest in the crowd, I turn to my phone and open up Raya, a new dating app for “creatives” where the black-and-white profile pictures show off blowouts and screenshots of people’s “artistic lifestyles.” That’s when I wonder if Diplo’s tour photographer is my soul mate. After a few likes, I jump to Hinge, the dating app that sets you up with friends of friends, wondering if my travel partner to Barcelona has known my soul mate all this time. Then I go to Happn, which matches you with people who “happen” to walk by you. Is Sammy, whose profile photo shows him feeding a bottle to a baby tiger on a recent trip to Thailand, my soul mate? A couple more yes swipes and I continue on with my night—all the while thinking I’ve put myself out there today. I’ve made an effort to meet someone.
Dating Essentials for the Digital Age:
It’s become clear to me that most people on dating apps don’t actually want to date. Very rarely do I feel that the people I match with are looking for a real, meaningful relationship. I have thousands of “matches,” but they all remain small avatars in their respective apps, never messaging a word or leaving a trace of their existence. Dating app use has become a routine task, like brushing your teeth or washing your face. If you’re single, you join a dating app—even if you don’t want a relationship, a one-night stand, or a new friend. You join a dating app because it’s a social norm we all participate in to make us feel a little less alone. There are millions of people on dating apps, aka millions of people in this world who are just as lonely as I am.
So what really is a dating app, if not an app that gets you dates? Is it an app that gives you confidence and makes you feel valued every time someone likes your profile? Is it an app that makes you feel less alone while you’re watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Or is it an app that helps you advance your career by introducing you to like-minded individuals? Whatever the reason, we’re all on dating apps even if we’re not actively dating.
Maybe the conversation of witty banter we partake in over the dating app is the actual “date”? I could very well be on a first date with Matt right now, discussing our favourite pizza toppings and which Seinfeld episode George cries in. Traditionally what we seek out in the act of dating are connections made through riffing with a stranger we find intriguing. Since we’re getting that same attention digitally, there doesn’t seem to be a need to repeat the exercise in real life.
I choose to participate in the dating app game because my cynical heart is somewhat of a hopeful romantic, thinking there might be the possibility of meeting my soul mate. And if I don’t, I still get to fall asleep knowing a cute guy named Matt enjoys my taste in ’90s hip-hop.
Check back in next week to follow along with Jilly Hendrix’s dating life.