In Defense of Dating Apps
Lately I’ve seen a lot of negativity on Twitter surrounding the use of dating apps. Don’t get me wrong, dating apps have a lot of problems. And the app companies themselves, with the exception of maybe Bumble, don’t do enough to combat the issues that people in general, but especially women, face on them. Using dating apps can get exhausting — the same boring conversations over and over, the verbal abuse, the ghosting — and I am totally in favor of people taking breaks when needed (I take breaks every few months) or just not using them at all if it isn’t something they enjoy.
But, on the flip side, dating apps can be great. They can introduce you to people you would never normally meet. Pretty much all of the guys I have actually gotten to the date stage with (guys with a decent written bio and no overly douchey photos who can carry on a conversation via messaging for longer than 2 days who are also actually interested in me….so, ya know, in fairness not all that many) have seemed like very nice people. I don’t really ever leave dates going “Oh wow, that was HORRIBLE.” The thing is, as much as some people may want to pretend otherwise, even if dating apps didn’t exist, I would probably have never met these men in real life. We live in slightly different areas and spend our time doing slightly different things. Even if “IRL” was my only option, I probably would never have met these specific men, who have all seemed like good guys (at least from 1–2 dates). I think that’s a wonderful thing, getting the chance to meet people who you would never otherwise have known. And I think the extreme negativity surrounding the apps is getting a bit tiresome.
People want to blame dating apps for all the ills that plague us in 21st century dating. But the fact is, all dating apps do is magnify the problem. While we may have experienced these things a couple times a year with “IRL” dating, now we can experience them a couple times a month. It makes the problems seem worse, and it makes dating apps seem like the problem, but I just don’t think that is the case. Dating sucks because people suck. Most men (and I am sure women also, but my dating experience is with men) are very selfish. Some of the most common complaints I hear about dating were still happening to me before the advent of swipe apps. For example…
Men send sexual messages too quickly and/or at inappropriate times
I once accidentally stepped on someone’s foot on the subway in Philadelphia and he asked me out on a date. Probably the only time I’ve been asked out randomly on the street as opposed to in a bar/party setting (not that the latter happens much either, ha!). We went on one quick coffee date but scheduling anything more in depth was kind of a challenge because of his med school schedule. One night he started g-chatting me (oh how I miss the gchat heyday) saying he was drunk and wanted me to come over. This happened a few more times, where I’d randomly get drunk sexual messages from him. We met in real life, he still took things too far too soon.
Men are lazy/don’t take enough initiative/don’t ask me out clearly enough/etc.
At two separate times in my life, about 3 or 4 years apart, I met a guy at a party. We exchanged numbers and began a weird sort of friendship where there was always a bit of SOMETHING between us but we never really acted on it. In one case we would drunkenly make out from time to time but anytime we would hang out sober nothing would happen; in the other nothing ever happened. In both cases, after hanging out with them, I would get texts like “You looked so cute today” or “I really wanted to kiss you while we were watching that movie.” In both instances, if a guy had made more of a (sober) move, I might have been up for seeing how things went. But, since they never did, we just continued with weird friendships for awhile, with me wondering the whole time why they would never act on the things they would always text me after hanging out.
Because of “swipe culture,” men always want the next thing and can’t focus on what is right in front of them
My last ex (who I met through mutual friends and not online, and also before “swipe apps” were a thing), was dating someone when we first met. We were sort of acquaintances through our mutual friends for a couple months until him and his girlfriend broke up. Within 2 or 3 weeks of their breakup, he and I were sleeping together in a friends with benefits type of situation. He also would occasionally still sleep with his ex during this time (which I knew but I’m not sure if she did). We dated for awhile, and upon breaking up with me he started sleeping with a coworker 4 days after our breakup (while we still lived together). This was after building up a very strong friendship that had even made me suspicious despite not normally being a very jealous person. They had a fling for a few weeks and then a couple weeks after that ended (and only three months after we had broken up) he started dating his now-fiance, who he also met through mutual friends, so probably had her in mind before ending the coworker fling. If that isn’t a case of always having the next woman lined up, then I don’t know what is.
This is, admittedly, a major issue on dating apps. I have been called a fat pig, a salty cunt, everything that is wrong with my country, and so much more while using apps. My dog has even been called ugly, which was the most egregious of all the offenses. Dating apps absolutely need to be better at removing users who behave this way (except Bumble, which does pretty well at this). I’ve had to swear off Plenty of Fish because they are so terrible at dealing with this kind of thing. But, this isn’t an issue confined to apps — this is an issue any time men feel they have power and relative anonymity. Stuff like this happens to women on twitter all the time. Even on my recent trip to Amsterdam, my friend and I witnessed horrendous behavior by men in the Red Light District, while they felt they could act however they wanted because the women were behind glass windows. Sure, men are often (but not always) worse to women they meet on the internet than they would be in real life, but this is not an app-specific problem, this is a 21st century problem.
I think to some extent, I will always be a defender of dating apps because I don’t meet people in real life.
I just don’t. I work in a female dominated field. I am fairly average looking, definitely attractive in my own way but not someone that guys are going to flock to in a public setting (and the RBF definitely does not help my case, haha). Also, while I am very self assured and confident in terms of knowing my value and worth when it comes to dating, I just do not have the type of confidence required to go up to men in public settings. But, possibly the biggest reason I don’t really meet people IRL is because I don’t really go out with that intention. I don’t really see my friends as often as I would like — we are all busy, some of them are married or have kids, up until recently I had class 50% of weekends, we all live scattered across the US and the world, we all travel a fair amount — when I get to see people I care about, I want to spend time with them, not spend half the night looking for guys that probably aren’t going to really be into me anyway. For me, dating apps have been a great way to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to meet, and have some really interesting (and admittedly a ton of boring ) conversations along the way without the pressure or awkwardness of a bar setting.
I’m not trying to trivialize the horrible issues people have encountered on dating apps, like ghosting and getting stood up. I know these are things both women and men do to one another, and it’s not right. But as I said with the other issues, I think that dating apps just make this happen to us all more frequently, I don’t think they are the cause of the problem. Is the idea of a better person always being a swipe of away making people more flaky and less willing to commit? Maybe. But, ultimately, a lot of people are just shitty, selfish people who only care about themselves. When everyone constantly has 3–4 conversations going on at once, of course more bad stuff is going to happen in comparison to going out and meeting maybe 1–2 people per weekend on average (if you are lucky, very attractive, and very confident) and maybe having 3–4 of those a month turn into actual conversations and dates. Dating apps make us experience everything a lot more often but they aren’t really the root cause of bad behavior. When you have a tool like dating apps that allow you to cast a wider net, you are inevitably going to pull up more bad fish. Is that the fault of the apps? Not really.
Like I said, I’m all for people taking breaks from apps or just choosing not to use them for their own personal reasons. I’m also all for people encouraging others to get out and meet more people IRL. I think we all could probably be better about joining meet up groups and trying to meet more people doing activities instead of just at bars. Now that my defense is behind me, I plan to try to join some of these groups and at the very least make some new friends out of it.
But, what I don’t like is people trying to preach to others that dating apps are not the way. A lot of negatives go along with dating apps, but a lot of positives do too. And I think only trying to focus on the former does a disservice to everyone just trying to do their best to meet people using the tools at their disposal.
Ultimately, I think we should all spend more time thinking about why human behavior in general is so bad, and not blaming the apps for bringing that bad behavior to the forefront.