Home » Opinion | Dating Apps Like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble Are Getting Worse

Opinion | Dating Apps Like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble Are Getting Worse

by Marko Florentino
0 comment

“The golden age of dating apps is over,” a friend told me at a bar on Super Bowl Sunday. As we waited for our drinks, she and another friend swiped through Bumble and Hinge, hunting for new faces and likes. Across the bar were two young men: phones out, apps open, clearly doing the exact same thing. Never did the duos meet.

What’s lamentable here isn’t only that dating apps have become the de facto medium through which single people meet. Since 2019, three in 10 U.S. adults have reported using them, with that figure rising to roughly six in 10 for Americans under 50 who have never been married. Not only are people not meeting partners in bars or any of the once normal in-person venues — they’re barely meeting them on the apps, either.

Maybe most of us just aren’t as hot as we used to be. Maybe it’s time our inflated egos got knocked down a notch. Maybe the market of people still willing to put themselves out there in an attempt to date has gotten smaller. Or maybe the apps have functionally, intentionally gotten worse, as have our romantic prospects. The more they fail to help us form relationships, the more we’re forced to keep swiping — and paying.

The internet, where so many of us spend so much of our time, has not been spared from the decline in quality that seems to plague so much of consumer life. This phenomenon was described by the writer Cory Doctorow in a November 2022 blog post and is sometimes called “platform decay”: Tech platforms like Amazon, Reddit and X have declined in quality as they’ve expanded. These sites initially hooked consumers by being almost too good to be true, attempting to become essential one-stop shops within their respective spaces while often charging nothing, thanks to low interest rates and free-flowing venture capital funding. Now that we’re all locked in and that capital has dried up, those initial hooks have been walked back — and there’s nowhere else to go.

This is precisely what is happening with dating apps now, too, with much more urgent consequences. What’s worsening isn’t just the technological experience of online dating but also our ability to form meaningful, lasting connections offline.

The collapse of dating apps’ usability can be blamed on the paid subscription model and the near-monopoly these apps have over the dating world. While dozens of sites exist, most 20-something daters use the big three: Tinder, Hinge and Bumble. (Older people often gravitate toward Match.com or eHarmony.) All three sites offer a “premium” version users must pay for — according to a study conducted by Morgan Stanley, around a quarter of people on dating apps use these services, averaging out at under $20 a month. The purpose, many believe, is to keep them as paid users for as long as possible. Even if we hate it, even if it’s a cycle of diminishing returns, there is no real alternative.

In the early heyday of Tinder, the only limits on whom you could potentially match with were location, gender and age preferences. You might not have gotten a like back from someone you perceived to be out of your league, but at least you had the chance to swipe right. Today, however, many apps have pooled the people you’d most like to match with into a separate category (such as Hinge’s “Standouts” section), often only accessible to those who pay for premium features. And even if you do decide to sign up for them, many people find the idea of someone paying to match with them to be off-putting anyway.

“If I don’t pay, I don’t date,” a friend in his 30s told me. He spends around $50 a month on premium dating app subscriptions and digital “roses” to grab the attention of potential matches. He’s gone on 65 dates over the last year, he said. None have stuck, so he keeps paying. “Back in the day, I never would have imagined paying for OKCupid,” he said.

Yet shares (Bumble’s stock price has fallen from about $75 to about $11 since its I.P.O.) and user growth have fallen, so the apps have more aggressively rolled out new premium models. In September 2023, Tinder released a $500 per month plan. But the economics of dating apps may not add up.

On Valentine’s Day this year, Match Group — which owns Tinder, Hinge, Match.com, OKCupid and many other dating apps — was sued in a proposed class action lawsuit asserting that the company gamifies its platforms “to transform users into gamblers locked in a search for psychological rewards that Match makes elusive on purpose.” This is in contrast to one of the group’s ad slogans that promotes Hinge as “designed to be deleted.”

People are reporting similar complaints across the apps — even when they aren’t taking the companies to court. Pew Research shows that over the last several years, the percentage of dating app users across demographics who feel dissatisfied with the apps has risen. Just under half of all users report feeling somewhat to very negative about online dating, with the highest rates coming from women and those who don’t pay for premium features. Notably, there is a gender divide: Women feel overwhelmed by messages, while men are underwhelmed by the lack thereof.

With seemingly increasing frequency, people are going to sites like TikTok, Reddit and X to complain about what they perceive to be a dwindling group of eligible people to meet on apps. Commonly, complaints are targeted toward these monthly premium fees, in contrast to the original free experience. Dating has always cost money, but there’s something uniquely galling about the way apps now function. Not only does it feel like the apps are the only way to meet someone, just getting in the door can also comes with a surcharge.

Perhaps dating apps once seemed too good to be true because they were. We never should have been exposed to what the apps originally provided: the sense that the dating pool is some unlimited, ever-increasing-in-quality well of people. Even if the apps are not systematically getting worse but rather you’ve just spent the last few years as a five thinking you should be paired with eights, the apps have nonetheless fundamentally skewed the dating world and our perception of it. We’ve distorted our understanding of how we’d organically pair up — and forgotten how to actually meet people in the process.

Our romantic lives are not products. They should not be subjected to monthly subscription fees, whether we’re the ones paying or we’re the ones people are paying for. Algorithmic torture may be happening everywhere, but the consequences of feeling like we are technologically restricted from finding the right partner are much heavier than, say, being duped into buying the wrong direct-to-consumer mattress. Dating apps treat people like commodities, and encourage us to treat others the same. We are not online shopping. We are looking for people we may potentially spend our lives with.

There is, however, some push toward a return to the real that could save us from this pattern. New in-person dating meet-up opportunities and the return of speed dating events suggests app fatigue is spreading. Maybe we’ll start meeting at bars again — rather than simply swiping through the apps while holding a drink.

Source link

You may also like

Leave a Comment

NEWS CONEXION puts at your disposal the widest variety of global information with the main media and international information networks that publish all universal events: news, scientific, financial, technological, sports, academic, cultural, artistic, radio TV. In addition, civic citizen journalism, connections for social inclusion, international tourism, agriculture; and beyond what your imagination wants to know



                                                                                                                                                                        2024 Copyright All Right Reserved.  @markoflorentino