The way we date has changed since the beginning of the internet age. If you were single and looking for love in ‘the olden days’ then you had no choice but to put your party face on, don your poshest clothes and head to the pubs, clubs and bars in the hope of accidentally bumping into the love of your life. These days you – quite literally – have the whole world to choose from and you can do it all from the safety of your sofa.
To commence your dating life all you really need to do is pop out your mobile phone and tap the app of your choice. If you are straight, then you could be using Tinder, Facebook, eHarmony, OKCupid, Ship, Tastebuds or Hinge. If you’re gay then you might be using Grindr … or … okay, if you’re gay and into app-based dating then you’ll be using Grindr.
You might not think there’s much of an issue with dating apps. They are simply designed to connect you to people in your local area (and beyond) who, like you, are looking for love … and maybe something a little less long term. However, new research has shown that dating apps can be addictive as alcohol or nicotine … and the reason for that is they’re designed to be.
Love and life are gambles, as are online slots and casino games
You may think that love is a gamble anyway. You meet someone, you fall in love, you get married, you have children, you live your life together and then you expire. Or you fall in love, fall out of love, fall in love with someone else, fall out of love with that person, fall in love with someone new, get married, have children, get divorced, find someone else, get married, get divorced and die alone but happy. Anything can happen, and usually does.
If love is a gamble, then surely dating apps are simply an extension of that gamble? That’s true, but dating apps are designed to take that gamble to the next level.
First and foremost, like online slots they are entertaining to use. With something like Tinder, the entire selection process is a game. Just like an online slot, you are presented with a number of symbols, although in this case the symbols are the photographs of real people.
Some of the symbols will be winners (you are attracted to them) and others will be losers (you wouldn’t touch them with someone else’s barge pole). The issue is, once you have ‘swiped right’, you don’t stop … you keep on playing. You are now no longer looking for love, but simply playing the game in terms of deciding whether the people you are swiping are attractive to you or not.
One of the other reasons you keep playing is that by continuing to swipe you are hoping to secure ‘the jackpot’ – finding the profile of someone who completely blows you away in terms of attractiveness and perceived compatibility.
Like online slots, it’s the randomness of the app that keeps us thrilled
Throughout history, scientific studies have been undertaken that test whether humans (and other animals) prefer a guaranteed, fixed outcome, or a random outcome that has greater rewards but also the chance of winning nothing.
For example, an experiment was undertaken using pigeons (and not necessarily ones looking for love). The pigeons were given two buttons to press – one would always give them food, but always the same amount no matter how many times they pressed. The second wouldn’t always give them food, but when it did it gave them a random amount – sometimes in far in excess of the amount given by the other button, but also sometimes nothing. The pigeons ended up pecking at the second button far more often than they did the pecking at the first.
It seems that is part of a brain’s nature (be it a pigeon brain or a human brain) to find risk enjoyable. Maybe this is an evolved sense – to encourage risk-taking in order to truly reap extra benefits in order to increase chances of growth. No matter the way in which it has developed, it impinges all parts of our lives, and indeed some more than others (people who drink or eat to excess even though they risk the development of life-threatening illnesses).
So, we enjoy the ‘risk’ of using dating apps. We develop a long list of ‘likes’ but we keep going in the hope of uncovering the ‘jackpot’ – that one person whom we are going to want to spend the rest of our lives with.
Dating apps are designed to turn the thrill of taking risks into ta game
No matter what they say, dating apps are mainly designed to do one thing – to make money. How can a dating app make money if it is 100 percent guaranteed to find you the love of your life within ten minutes of using it? If dating apps were perfect then that – surely – is what they should do. Many people find lifelong love despite only getting close to a few dozen people throughout their entire lives. A dating app has the potential to put you in touch with millions of people – surely your ‘the one’ should be among them?
Of course, dating apps want you to keep on playing. If you quit, then they stop getting money from you or the ads that you are forced to sit through. So, the whole dating process is gamified – sounds, graphics, pop-ups, messages, notifications … it’s designed to make searching for a date ‘fun’, and is not designed to find you the ideal partner.
Hopefully everyone will be lucky in love whether they are using a dating app or not. As with most things in life, be responsible towards the people in your life whom mean the most to you.