Technological innovations have shaped the way people meet and date: the internet is often blamed for an imminent “dating-apocalypse”, but “online” dating is not actually that new. The invention of the printing press and the subsequent development of newspapers in the 18th century saw the emergence of “Lonely Hearts” columns, sections where one could publish an ad to look for a partner. Originally male dominated and borderline creepy, these columns were generalised and became a genuine way of finding love, not unlike online dating.
Today, finding a partner through social media and online dating is widely accepted. The proportion of couples who have met online is on the rise since the 90s, reaching one fifth of heterosexual couples and two thirds of homosexual couples.
The most striking innovations which now affect the way we date are smartphones and dating apps. Mobile dating is not exactly the mobile extension of online dating: websites like match.com tend to be aimed at those seeking a long-lasting relationship and are used by an older age group, whilst dating apps gamify the process of dating by giving easy access to a renewable dating pool.
Apps like Tinder help the dating scene by speeding up the traditional process, squeezing the first date, wedding night and break up in only a few hours. It has never been easier to connect with this many people in such little time, making dating increasingly casual. Whilst dating websites are a means to an end (finding a relationship), swiping through Tinder is an end in itself, like flipping through an Argos catalogue and choosing a new washing machine to replace the broken one.
An Iowa State University study showed that the majority of “Tinder encounters” left students insecure and confused. Vulnerability had been suppressed to partake in the hook up culture, leaving students feeling “empty”. So, is the Tinder effect spreading?
People who meet through social situations and strongly consider personality should not worry, as Tinder will always remain a separate area of the dating game. It serves its own type of people well, those who would have remained superficial in dating. Mobile dating simply enables those mostly interested in physical appearance to match more easily.
Overall, online and mobile dating are a new vector for a universal quest of companionship; dating apps make relationships increasingly casual and short lived for those who want them to be, but they will not end meaningful dating for those seeking it. The nature of innovation cannot be blamed for making dating a superficial endeavour, as personal values will shape the way new technologies are individually used in relation to dating, and to what end.