By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer
I don’t know a single person who enjoys dating apps.
They’re shallow, depressing, potentially expensive, and now, often essential to dating.
Covid lockdowns expedited the trend. Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble were the only ways to meet a potential partner.
Even when restrictions eased, apps were still necessary. Hard to meet someone at a bar when you aren’t allowed to leave your table, and have a mask on!
While the pandemic feels behind us, dating apps are not.
When you swipe, you make snap assessments based on pictures and short bios. And you know somewhere within a 20-mile radius, someone else is reducing you in the same way.
Dating is hard. How could it not be? You’re trying to satisfy a primal need! But these apps’ business models don’t help.
They make money a few different ways. They likely sell your data and habits, like other tech giants.
They have ads.
And they push premium subscriptions.
Most apps cap the number of “likes” you can send to potential matches daily.
Hinge, for example, charges $19.99 for a month of unlimited likes.
But that doesn’t give you access to “Standouts,” a daily list of 10 new extremely attractive profiles, as decided by its algorithm.
To like a “standout,” you have to buy a “rose” for $3.33. A rose doesn’t guarantee they will match back. It’s The Bachelor, but even sadder.
Tinder is similar — but their monthly prices double when you reach age 30.
For a 30 year old, Tinder Plus is $9.99/month for unlimited likes.
It lets you know your odds of matching go up if you use “Super Likes” from Tinder Gold — only $29.99/month.
Why stop at Gold? Want to give your likes priority and see if they’ve read your message? Go up another level to Tinder Platinum, only $39.99/month.
I’m looking forward to Tinder Diamond. $1,000 to be teleported into their home.
Do the apps really want you to find a mate? How could that possibly make sense for their business model?
They dangle real people, also looking for matches, in front of you, using their profiles and information, in hopes of squeezing a few dollars out of your wallet.
It does feel a bit like prostitution — they’re commodifying your body, likeness, and personality, and you have no idea that they’re doing it.
Obviously experiences are different for women and men and across sexualities.
Women friends tell me they can match more frequently than heterosexual men, but it comes with an endless stream of harassment and “creepy” comments.
They say they have to lean more on bios to filter out the “creeps.”
Do you wonder why there’s a mental health crisis in young Americans? Could funneling all romance through these platforms be a part of it?
If these apps were just out on the free market, it would be one thing. People have the right to choose to use them or not.
But during the pandemic, you could make the argument that they became utilities; necessary to live normally and fully.
Anecdotally, there’s a noticeable divide amongst my friends. Those who were in successful relationships prior to the pandemic were much more comfortable with restrictions. And often more content during lockdowns.
Those who were alone and stuck swiping on dating apps were going crazy. Many of them made big moves — either to less restrictive areas or in with family.
Do we want to leave the next generation’s romantic hopes up to shadowy algorithms designed to milk them for money?
Why is social media’s impact on mental health a concern but these apps not?
All this being said, I went on a good Hinge date after I wrote this article. If things go well, I’m prepared to do a complete 180 and on everything I wrote here.
Unless we break up and I have to use these dating apps again.
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