Are you single? Have you been single recently? If yes, then we’re guessing you’ve been on Tinder or similar dating apps. Since Tinder launched in 2012, dating apps have become a popular way of meeting new people. Whether you’re LGBTIQ or straight, looking for a date or your soulmate, there’s an app for you.
We all know couples who met on dating apps, in fact app dating is now so common, the old stigmas once associated with online dating have all but disappeared.
But with a world of romantic and sexual possibilities now at our fingertips, is there a downside to swipe culture? Do we have the mental resilience to cope with it? Are dating apps harming us more than they’re helping us
Everybody’s doing it
There are many dating apps out there, the most popular being Tinder and Bumble. Current numbers provided by Tinder boast users in over 190 countries, producing 1.6 billion swipes per day, 26 million matches per day, and an estimated 1.5 million dates per week. A 2015 Roy Morgan survey estimated that 1 in 10 young Aussie singles use Tinder.
However, despite the many benefits of app dating – looking for dates from your couch, testing the banter waters, the sheer volume of choice – there may be just as many drawbacks.
Most dating apps are largely based on looks. You browse through photos of strangers, making snap judgements about their appeal. Sure, this isn’t too different to “real life”, but here you’re doing it to potentially hundreds of people in minutes. You’re also aware that others are making snap judgements about you.
As dating apps are relatively new, there’s not a lot of research into them yet. But in a 2016 study of the psychosocial effects of Tinder, psychologist Dr Jessica Strubel found that the app’s “hyper focus on physical appearance” may be contributing to the worsening mental health of some users. The study showed a possible link between app use and poor self-worth, particularly in relation to body image.
There was one indicator from the small study that the researchers didn’t anticipate. In using Tinder, the small sample of men surveyed demonstrated a greater risk of lowered self-esteem than the women. This is certainly surprising considering the pressure on women to adhere to cultural standards of beauty. It doesn’t mean that the playing field is suddenly equal, but Strubel does believe it’s shifted: “When you think of the negative consequences of self-esteem, you usually think of women, but men are just as susceptible.”
While these findings are interesting, it’s important to keep in mind that this was a small study and more research is needed to truly understand the effects of dating apps on our mental health.