I Heart My App: Welcome to the World of Modern Dating

Gabriella Tutino

 

After a long day at work as a TV associate producer, Jenna Nolan likes to settle in and unwind at home with some food, maybe Netflix, and sometimes Tinder. The mobile dating app allows Jenna to scroll through a few user photos to see if there’s anyone who catches her eye before she retires and starts her day again.

With the rise in popularity of mobile dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr, Lulu and others, this isn’t uncommon behavior. A 2013 PEW Internet study about online dating and relationships reported that 11 percent of American adults have used an online dating site or mobile app, 66 percent of online daters have gone on a date with someone they met online, and 23 percent of users have met a spouse or lifelong partner through online dating.

Online dating isn’t anything new—Match.com was one of the first sites in the mid-1990s to cater to online dating, and this form of dating didn’t really pick up steam until the mid-2000s. What makes these mobile dating apps so popular is their focus on the casual, social interactions. While people use mobile dating apps to meet new people, there’s no immediate pressure to start an intense relationship from the get-go.

Tinder is meant to work in a way that mimics real-life interactions. If you’re out at a bar and catch someone’s eye, you’d eventually go up to them and say hi. The app is location-based, and allows for users to look through profiles (pulled from Facebook) before swiping right for ‘yes’ or left for ‘no.’ If there’s a match, then the app notifies both parties, who then can start to chat if they want. Depending on what exactly they are looking for, users can go out on dates, make new friends, engage in a one-night stand or hook-up, or start a relationship. This comedy video, Tinder App in Real Life, hits the nail on the head as to the level of engagement necessary to get the most out of Tinder.

Today’s dating scene is considered a post-traditional-dating world, where you no longer take people out with the initial intention of marrying them. It’s a shift that allows for more possibilities and more options, a result product of hook-up culture. The scene has shifted, and although there are more positive opinions about online dating, skeptics still exist, mainly focusing on the communicative issues and values of online dating.

American society has become increasingly technology-reliant, with many social interactions beginning online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, chat rooms and mobile dating apps. When all the necessary applications are installed on a phone, and notifications are constantly going off, it’s hard to tune out of the “e-world” and tune into the real world. The double-edged sword of online interactions is that users can represent themselves or misrepresent themselves as someone else with a tailored online profile. While users may be eloquent, chatty and professional online, this doesn’t always translate over in face-to-face interaction. One of the overworked arguments against social media is its effect on conversation and communication between people: conversation is a lost art. The argument is that because we are so connected through multiple platforms, we’re disconnected on a more primal, emotional level. Communication barriers have shifted more towards technology and there’s not always authenticity behind the texts, tweets, and statuses people post.

“The most important part of online dating, whether it’s traditional online dating or not, is getting offline,” said Laurie Davis, dating coach and founder of eFlirt Expert, quoted in The Huffington Post. Ninety percent of human communication is non-verbal—think: eye contact, posture, facial expressions, touch—and being able to read body language is important for any type of relationship, whether sexual or platonic. And then there is tone as well—behind the veil of a text or a message, tone can be faked. That’s much harder to do in person. With most people, if you can’t carry a conversation, a second date isn’t likely.

 

 

Many users of mobile dating apps feel that recent technology has cheapened conversation.  Ralph Belvedere, a student who has used Tinder, Grindr and the like, feels that “the media does not help relationships.” When you have articles and sites teaching the decoding and rules of e-dating, “…becoming dependent on interpretation of texts and emails complicates unneeded factors that can break a relationship,” says Belvedere. “If you know the person… it's just exchanging of information. In-person conversations are greater and more productive on the traditional sense, which proves for greater results overall.”

But others disagree. Andrew Asistin, a food blogger and recent culinary grad student, used Internet dating to meet his current girlfriend. Asistin felt that recent technology improved dating, as he was able to keep in touch with his girlfriend over long-distance. Said Asistin, “’Traditional’ conversation is not lost to the world. It’s just evolving.” Amy Holmes, who met her husband on eHarmony a few years ago, echoes that sentiment. “The most important thing about dating and meeting people, any people, is honest communication…The trick is to be honest with yourself and the people you meet about what kind of dater you are.”

Like Jenna, college students and post-grad students turn to Tinder and other apps to meet new people. One woman, who chose to remain anonymous, used the app when she moved for her job. While she ended up dating a guy for a year before they broke it off, she also found it hard to differentiate between guys who wanted just sex and guys who wanted relationships. While these apps were created on the basis of finding new friends or lovers, they’ve garnered a reputation for being a source for hook-ups (and apps like Lulu rate hook-ups, so you know ahead of time what the experience will be like).

 

 

Overall many social daters find that mobile apps help to ease communication and open up dating possibilities. But as Nolan puts it, “It's hard to establish and maintain a relationship without having those face-to-face conversations. In my opinion, actually seeing, touching your partner keeps you more connected than any technology.” 

 

Author Bio:

Gabriella Tutino is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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