The second reason why you may never find “the one” on a dating app

Source : Jubilee on YouTube

Last week I covered the first reason why dating apps might not be your best option to find a suitable long-term partner. This week, I’d like to share the second reason : The process for selecting a partner is unrealistic.

As much as there are many alternative apps to counter the conspicuous judgemental aspect of the swipe culture from apps like Tinder, selecting a potential mate still mostly comes down to visual attraction as opposed to compatibility.

It doesn’t matter how elaborate someone’s bio is, most users do not spend a long time on other people’s profiles. According to a study published on Mic.com, women spent and average of 3.19 seconds on the profiles of men they found attractive before swiping right, and an average of 6.91 seconds on less-appealing candidates before swiping left. Men spent about 5.7 seconds to swipe right and 6.26 second to swipe left. You may be thinking, what’s the problem with that?

  1. It forces you to turn another human being into a commodity.
  2. You can’t get enough valuable input online to make a sound decision.

Judging a book by it’s cover

You’re really cute, I must admit. But I need something deeper than this . I wanna know when I’m looking at you. That you don’t only see the things you want to. — Ruth B, Superficial Love

There’s something incredibly unnatural about swiping left or right for a potential partner. It puts human beings in the same category as online shopping items; just like a new pair of shoes! It also puts the user in that “shopping” frame of mind, turning potential mates into commodities while searching for the “perfect fit” to their imaginary relationship.

Consequently potential online partners also become easily disposable. There’s always something better coming around the corner. Maybe “Prince Charming” will show up on the next 100 swipes? That kind of behaviour, which gave rise to the term “toxic dating culture”, brings more frustration and despair to people simply looking to connect. Not only are they unsatisfied with the dating culture online, but it can also give them the impression that there are no other options.

For example, Redditor MrDrJD95 recently shared his insightful experience regarding online dating :

I’ve been using dating apps for almost a year now but only intensely for probably 4 of those months. I get matches but they all seem to lead to the same point: ghosting or the “I’m not ready for a relationship” talk followed by her immediately talking to another guy.

I just can’t seem to survive in today’s dating culture. It’s too toxic. I can’t take how people lie. I can’t take how everyone is talking to multiple people at once, how everyone is always looking for something better, how nobody wants to commit, how nobody wants a relationship, how nobody takes it seriously.

Dating apps tend to be very superficial, and this was interestingly illustrated a couple of years ago, through a series of social experiments videos by Jubilee. They recreated the experience of a dating app in real life where one person had to swipe left or right on a series of 30 potential matches. (You can see them here : Anshul (5:56 MIN) & Lauren (5:48 MIN)

Here’s what Anshul, a young male participant, had to say about his experience :

“I feel like it’s so different from dating in real life or even dating generally. It generally takes a lot longer, a lot more talk, a lot more understanding but this was like ‘Oh, done in 5 seconds’. That’s so strange! You can judge a whole person in 5 seconds.” — Anshul

And here’s what Lauren, a young female participant, had to say about her experience :

“I just didn’t feel that all-around connection that I was hoping for. I think I need to put myself out there more. […] It’ll just be less of a priority using apps and more interaction with people.” — Lauren

Keep in mind that, swiping through 30 people is a lot less than what the average dating app user is accustomed to. Tinder limits the number of swipes to 100 per day. If someone is using more than one dating app at any one time, the total number of swipes per day can be significantly larger.

Although the experiment was a great representation of what it’s like to use a dating app, it wasn’t exactly accurate because being in the same room with their potential match removed a lot of the implicit blind spots in dating apps.

Implicit blind spots in Dating Apps

Seeing-is-believing is a blind spot in man’s vision. — R. Buckminster Fuller

There’s a huge difference between spending 5 seconds looking at a 3in by 6in image of someone in 5 second compared to looking at a person on the other side of a coffee shop. If you pay attention, you’re going to get a lot more information from the person in the coffee shop.

Visual attraction

When you look at someone’s profile photo on a dating app, you only get to see a carefully selected, filtered, and cropped image of that person. Assuming it’s not a catfish (or any other of the [insert-the-latest-dating-app-trend-here]-fish), you’re making a decision based on a fraction of a second. A moment in time. You might be visually attracted but certainly not physically attracted because the image lacks substance and context. All you have is a static image to stare at, pixels on a screen. That’s it. Everything else that you think about that person is from your own imagination based on what you see.

Physical attraction

On the other hand, when you see someone in real life, you’re capturing a lot more, both consciously and subconsciously, about that person. Say you see someone at a coffee shop that catches your eyes. Instead of just seeing them from one angle in a fraction of a second, you get to see them in 4D and in a natural setting : The way they walk, the way they smile (or not), how they interact with their environment, how tall or short they are, maybe even how they sound, smell and also the kind of energy they emit. (If you own a dog or a cat, you’re probably more familiar to it too as pets tend to react differently to people with particular energies.)

You can even see it in the videos from Jubilee. The first few seconds before they begin “swiping”, there’s already a lot of non-verbal interactions between the potential couples because They are looking at “multiple frames per seconds” of each other as they approach one another. Their body languages are saying a lot in that short period of time, especially if you slow down the videos.

Why is this so important?

The whole point of dating is to experience what it would be like to be with a new person. When you’re dating in real life, you’re essentially sampling a potential relationship by putting yourself and your date in different scenarios. You can see how you feel around them, how they feel around you and how those feelings differ from one environment to another.

So meeting people in real life, puts you that much closer to experiencing that potential relationship with the other as you can start to relate in a tangible way, just as you eventually would in a relationship.

On the other hand, by its very nature, dating apps cannot offer the same relationship sampling experiences as a physical encounter can. Instead, they delay that experience by introducing an additional step in that journey. And that step can easily become a trap if you’re not careful (more on that in the next part of this series).

So, if your goal is to be in a tangible relationship with someone, at the very least, minimize the time you spend on an app before it become a crutch. There are a lot of bells and whistles that can keep you on a dating app, just like any other social media app, aimlessly swiping while your life passes you by, when all you could do is get out (or on social zoom calls nowadays) and meet more people instead.

Do you think dating apps could overcome the discrepancies between online dating and real life dating? Let me know in the comments.

Toronto-based artist. Professional dreamer. www.mariejudith.com

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