Swipe Left, Swipe Right

Exploring the superficiality (and popularity) behind the online dating scene

Looks and physical attraction are important when it comes to any relationship. But should they be the reason you choose to start one?

The online dating scene has become one giant beauty pageant, accented with pouty-lipped selfies and sickly-sweet smiles. Popular dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid ignore the adage of not choosing books by their covers, and instead let users sift through scores of potential partners based on little else other than facial features and display pictures.

With their rise in popularity and increased membership, these apps easily turn dating into a pre-teen slumber party game of “Who’s Hotter?” Users can easily swipe away people that don’t fit certain outwardly characteristics, amplifying the apps’ superficial natures. 

Connected yet isolated

The paradoxic quality of living in the digital age is that while we’re virtually connected to more people than ever before, we’ve become increasingly isolated from those around us. With our earbuds in and thumbs casually strolling through Facebook, smartphones have become indispensable tools to introverts everywhere.

The same bridge connecting us to the virtual realm has simultaneously made it harder to find and connect with potential partners in real life. But that’s what makes dating apps so popular. Not only do they bring the dating scene where everyone already is – you shop, talk, and watch movies online, so why not date there as well? – but also introduce “swipe left, swipe right” algorithms that resemble speed dating on steroids. Essentially, dating apps take the displeasures out of dating, letting users experience first hand their efficiency and speed, all from the comfort of their single-seat lonely couches.

But do relationships based off these shallow apps actually stick? Are they genuine? And can people really form meaningful and lasting relationships with people they’ve met on Tinder?

I was mulling it over – having had no previous experience with dating apps, mind you – when a fellow writer mentioned that she and her current boyfriend met on Tinder. I asked, surprised, if things were going well for her to which she replied with a smirk, “Well, we’re still dating aren’t we?”.

Given the mass membership of these apps, it’s likely and predictable there are bound to be success stories. Obviously, certain dating apps are geared more towards casual hook-ups (Down, Grindr), while others are focused on cultivating long-term, meaningful relationships (Coffee Meets Bagel, Match). But looking at the online dating scene in general, researchers have found that more than one-third of marriages begin online in the U.S.A., and that married couples who met online were more likely to survive the first year of marriage compared to couples that met in person.

You could make the argument that most, if not all, of our first impressions of people are superficial ones – what he/she is wearing, how attractive they are, what they’re body shape is like, et cetera, and apps like Tinder only mimic that behaviour. 

But judging people based on their looks is innate and uncontrollable human nature – it doesn’t have to dictate the way we program our algorithms or design our dating apps. Online dating websites like eHarmony are proof that substantial sites going beyond the superficial work.

Despite their success, you won’t find me on Tinder anytime soon in search of a potential partner. I’d like to find someone whom I admire for more than just their selfie game and the features they were born with. But hey, to each their own.