Modern dating can be severed into two eras: before the swipe, and after

Modern dating can be severed into two eras: before the swipe, and after

By 2017, about five years after Tinder introduced the swipe, more than a quarter of different-sex couples were meeting on apps and dating websites, according to a study led by the Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld. Suddenly, saying “We met on Hinge” was as normal as saying “We met in college” or “We met through a friend.”

Last week, he published an op-ed headlined “Dating Apps Are the Best Place to Find Love, No Matter What You See on TikTok

The share of couples meeting on apps has remained pretty consistent in the years since his 2017 study, Rosenfeld told me. But these days, the mood around dating apps has soured. As the apps seek to woo a new generation of daters, TikTok abounds with complaints about how hard it is to find a date on Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr, and all the rest. The novelty of swiping has worn off, and there hasn’t been a major innovation beyond it. As they push more paid features, the platforms themselves are facing rocky finances and stalling growth. Dating apps once looked like the foundation of American romance. Now the cracks are starting to show.

In 2022, a Pew Research Center survey found that about half of people have a positive experience with online dating, down from . With little success on the apps, a small but enthusiastic slice of singles are reaching for speed dating and matchmakers. Even the big dating apps seem aware that they are facing a crisis of public enthusiasm. A spokesperson for Hinge told me that Gen Z is its fastest-growing user segment, though the CEO of Match Group, the parent company of Tinder and Hinge, has gone on the defensive. ” A spokesperson for Bumble told me that the company is “??actively looking at how we can make dating fun again.”

In part, what has changed is the world around the apps, Rosenfeld said. The massive disruptions of the pandemic meant that young people missed out on a key period to flirt and date, and “they’re still suffering from that,” he told mepared with previous generations, young people today also have “a greater comfort with singleness,” Kathryn Coduto, a professor of media science at Boston University, told me. But if the apps feel different lately, it’s because they are different. People got used to swiping their hearts out for free. Now, the apps are further turning to subscriptions and other paid features

When Tinder and other dating apps took off in the early 2010s, they unleashed a way to more easily access potential love interests than ever before

Tinder, for example, launched a $499-a-month premium subscription in December. On Hinge, you can signal special interest in someone’s profile by sending them a “rose,” which then puts you at the top of their feed. Everyone gets one free rose a week, but you can pay for more. Hinge users have accused the app of gatekeeping attractive people in “rose jail,” but a spokesperson for the app defended the feature: Hinge’s top goal is to help people go on dates, she said, claiming that roses are twice as likely to lead to one.

It’s the same process that has afflicted Google, Amazon, Uber, and so many other platforms in recent years: First, an app achieves scale by providing a service lots of people want to use, and then it does whatever is needed to make money off of you. This has worked for some companies-after 15 years, Uber is finally profitable-but monetization is especially tricky for dating apps. No matter how much you fork up, apps can’t guarantee that you will meet the love of your life-or even have a great first date. With dating apps, “you’re basically paying for a chance,” Coduto told me. Paying for a dating-app subscription can feel like entering a lottery: exciting but potentially a waste of money (with an added dose of worry that you look desperate). And there has always been a paradox at the core of the apps: They promise to help you meet people, but they make money if you keep swiping.


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