How Dating Apps Have Restructured Our Understanding of Relationships


Cinema, regional or international, has had several notions of love. Some are far-fetched, like the “the love at first sight'' concept or meeting a stranger across a room and leaving it to chance. While romantic movies in the past have shaped how we see and perceive romance, changes to the ecosystem seen throughout generations and tumultuous times have had a whirlwind effect on how we presently view relationships. 

One of the emerging trends in how the Gen Z and millennials perceive romance is dating apps. According to sociologist, Dr Marie Bergström,  there is a third concept, that doesn’t leave things to chance or fate. According to her “this idea is that there’s someone out there for you, someone made for you, a “soulmate” and “you just need to find that person”. This idea developed from online dating where singles take proactive action to go and search for this person, rather than hoping to bump into their partners. The days of waiting are over. 


Defining “Dating” Now 

Before, dating used to exist within already known circles of an individual. Meeting a partner through friends and colleagues was very natural and public. Discussions around one’s love life were common knowledge as an individual could only meet people through friends. But, dating as an activity has had a complete 360-degree transformation. 

Now it is seen as a private and disconnected activity that is performed away from curious eyes, keeping that social sphere very separate from other personal spheres. “Online dating is much more private. It's a fundamental change and a key element that explains why people go on online platforms and what they do there-what kind of relationships come out of it”, Bergström continues. 

Online dating has brought very specific interests to the dating spectrum, helping individuals pick and choose the kind of people they would find compatible and helping them filter out partners who just don’t match. 

An article from Mint talks about interest badges that have been introduced in dating apps like Bumble, wherein millennial and Gen Z users bond on interests like films and tv shows or the kind of cuisines they love and bars they visit. This focused approach to dating hasn't been seen in the past. Some specific features like love for pets or interests like photography are used to find partners with shared values and intentions. 

Effect Of Dating Apps on Decision-Making In Relationships 

The rise of smartphone dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge try to solve the gap between work and social life as people tackle more deadlines and work responsibilities. As per The Decision Lab, this decreases people’s ability to socialise and connect with others. The complete detachment caused by the pandemic led to more socialising problems.

With their  popularity reaching sky high and the taboos around dating decreasing, people now find partners at a click of a button from their own homes, but it has its cons. Online dating, being so easy and accessible has led to a culture of short-term relationships that never become anything more, often harming wellbeing and mental health. 1 out 6 people have reported anxiety as a mental burden. 

Concepts like “ghosting” (abruptly ending a conversation without notifying the other person), and “catfishing” (using false pictures to mislead) are growing enormously on these apps, with unverified profiles being a major part. This has led to a rise in insecurities like low self-esteem and poor self image issues among young people.This could be seen as the beginning of shaky relationships. Dating apps and detrimental relationships might have a connection. 

“I have to sift through so many options before I find anyone even worth having a conversation with!”, says 23 year old Amrita, an avid member of dating sites. “There are so many people who mislead you into thinking that they want the same thing you do, and it just turns into a blatant disappointment”. 

 Behavioral science has an inch on an answer. 

What Goes Into Finding A Partner

There are several things people look for in their partners. Factors like personality, hobbies, interests, values and physical aspects are some of the categories in their check list on these apps. These choices are governed by personal preferences and bias that influence decision making. This could be good or bad. 

Having to choose from “plenty of fish in the sea” or what’s called the paradox of choice  by Schwartz is when increased freedom to choose results in a reduction of subjective well being. Too much information can lead to confusion and an overwhelming sense of having to manage complex choices. Picking people might not be as easy as a swipe. 

This creates internal conflict and doubt in making decisions. Therefore, while the dating world has become accessible at the click of a button, there are various problems people face while looking for a partner. As new apps emerge, people are finding innovative methods of finding their compatible partners. 

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