What followed was months of dates and bad dates that culminated in one man telling her that she was bad in bed but that he was willing to try again anyway.
Eventually, Laura deleted her dating apps for good. But she said it took longer than it should have — and she’s not alone.
Tinder launched over a decade ago, and since then, many other apps have emerged, all promising to revolutionize dating.
But 10 years later and people aren’t exactly their biggest fans. It’s nearly impossible to discuss dating apps without endless horror stories of catfishing, ghosting, misogyny, and most people’s general hatred of them.
The hate is so real that it spawned several articles, including a recent one from Buzzfeed titled: 21 Wild Tinder Interactions That Show How Much Bullshit You Need to Examine On Dating Apps.
And it’s not just anecdotal evidence that shows people aren’t exactly enamored with online dating. A recent survey of 4,000 adults who date online found that approximately 56 percent view dating apps as somewhat or very negative.
Another Pew Research Center survey found that 88% of respondents were disappointed with what they saw on dating apps.
So if everyone hates dating apps so much, why do they keep using them?
Sex and relationship therapist Serafin Upton said there are several reasons, but one of the biggest is that people aren’t sure how to meet people without them.
Upton told Newshub that the rise of dating apps has had a number of unintended consequences, one of which is that people now feel awkward or unsafe asking people out in real life.
Another reason people are attracted to online dating is because it takes less effort than meeting people “in the wild”.
“With the advent of the internet, we can do a million things and we are expected to do a million things in a day and people are more exhausted than ever before in human history,” Upton said.
“If you can choose to join a sports team to potentially find a partner or go online when you have a very limited amount of time and energy, you’ll choose the easy thing.”
That convenience is made even more addictive by the dopamine hit you get from browsing dating apps.
Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that makes you feel good. It allows people to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation and is released by doing things like eating good food and having sex.
But Upton said the simple act of thinking you might find someone you like on a dating app is also enough to release dopamine, making the user feel good even if they haven’t interacted with anyone.
“When you’re rolling in different faces, every time you do that you get a dopamine hit because the dopamine doesn’t come from meeting someone you think is really hot, it comes from the anticipation that you might meet.”
The lack of face-to-face interaction can also be very attractive to shy or introverted people – but online dating isn’t necessarily a better choice.
“If you are shy and lack social skills or lack social confidence, then online dating is going to be very difficult because I would say you need more social skills and more confidence. It actually requires more skills. It’s an illusion of security , ” she said.
And while it may take more effort, Upton said there are big benefits to meeting people in real life that can’t be replicated online.
“Humans are designed to hunt a mate in the wild. There’s something profoundly different about seeing someone on a screen and interacting over text,” she said.
“You can’t compare that to watching someone interact with the bartender or interact with their friends, how their body moves… Are they polite? Are they respectful? Are they funny?”
What impacts are dating apps having on our relationships?
Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, Dr. Ally Gibson, has been researching online dating, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gibson said her research has revealed the impact online dating is having on modern relationships.
One of the most profound examples she noted was the false sense of intimacy that dating apps can create between strangers.
Dating apps are almost like a religious confessional, she said, because it’s a private chat where people feel they have nothing to lose.
Since most people are talking to strangers, who have no connection to their daily lives, they are more likely to share intimate and personal information.
“You open up because it’s a private space and it’s almost confessional. You’re sharing all this personal information, which I think is what creates this sense of intimacy,” Gibson said.
This confessional dynamic can often lead to a false sense of intimacy between people that doesn’t transfer to real life – meaning that the first in-person encounter is often a letdown.
“So you meet in person, and of course there are all these different dynamics at play, like whether you’re physically attracted or not, how someone dresses or their facial expressions, the way you speak, the language you use,” added.
This is something Laura has experienced first hand. She said that one of the biggest drawbacks of online dating is that it can give off false impressions.
“I’ve always found that when I meet men on Tinder or Bumble, their online chat is great. But when you meet to talk in person, I found their chat to be drier than the Sahara. I understand that finding in person it’s scary but certainly tell a joke or something to ease the tension,” she said.
This was also one of the reasons why participants in Dr. Gibson said online dating can really be more work. People reported spending a lot of time chatting online, but it didn’t make much of a difference in real life. Which meant people felt like they were doing twice as much work for the same result.
Another way that dating apps impact relationships is by giving people a false idea of how many options they have.
According to Upton, dating apps can make it seem like there’s an endless sea of people available.
“There’s this perception that [the options] go on forever, you can just keep looking. You keep expanding the parameters, and depending on your age group, there could be thousands of options.
“It gives us the feeling, and lures us into a false sense of security, that there are more options available to us than there really are,” she said.
This can mean that people are less likely to give people a second chance if the first date is a little awkward. And people are often less inclined to put work into relationships in the early stages, she said.
But one thing that hasn’t changed, according to Upton, is that when people are in relationships, they still deeply value and strive for them.
Despite giving up on them, Laura said that overall she thinks dating apps can be successful — but only if people are really honest with themselves and each other.
“If you’re talking to someone and you see them as a potential life partner, but they just see you as a Saturday night hookup, you’re never going to be happy with them. You need to be open and honest with both sides. . people you match and talk to and yourself.”
For her though, they were a good distraction and made for some funny stories.
And while, in general, she prefers to meet people in real life – that too has its challenges.
“There are some real creeps in bars and clubs. [But] at least you can get a free drink or know they aren’t fishing for you.
“I think there’s hope for people meeting on dating apps and building a relationship with someone you meet online, but unfortunately, you’ll probably have to go through a fair amount of frogs before you find your happily ever after.”