Move over COVID, there’s a new epidemic in town. The Online Dating App-idemic affects single people of all ages and walks of life, but Millennials are especially vulnerable.  

About 80% of human communication is non-verbal.

When you’re meeting and flirting online, you lose all sense of body language. It’s also difficult to discern things like sarcasm and playfulness, so conversations often feel boring or confusing.

Scary Stories

Every time you pick up your phone it’s a gamble. One minute it’s a funny gif from The Office, the next it’s a close up of a stranger’s genitals. Ask your friends, I guarantee they have at least one dating app disaster story.

  • Erin agreed to pick up her date after he told her he wasn’t medically cleared to drive. When she arrived, she realized he was just really really drunk.
  • Maddi carries an EpiPen for her shellfish allergy. On her first date with a doctor, he tried to feed her shrimp off his plate. When she politely, but insistently refused, he declined a second date.
  • Alex’s date told him she just started a new job. When he asked her what she had been doing previously, she said just one word—prison.
  • Liam used a photo from his own wedding as his profile picture. He didn’t even crop his ex-wife out entirely.
  • The day before Christina’s date, he texted to ask what kind of food she liked. She said, “I’m not picky, I like everything except seafood!” She thought it was weird that he took her to Red Lobster, until the bill came. He whipped out a gift certificate. 

Option Overload

In his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson says, “Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.”

This is known as the Paradox of Choice.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, critiquing multiple candidates causes people to be more judgmental. This makes you more likely to dismiss a perfectly good candidate for something trivial.

This can also have an effect on commitment. When you have access to hundreds of potential dates in your pocket, how do you stay focused on one person? Is there motivation to work through the hard times or will people start giving up on long-term relationships, constantly chasing the honeymoon phase?

Is the grass greener on the other side?

When asked to choose between a committed relationship or something casual, 87% of women, and 61% of men said they wanted a serious relationship. The problem is the apps are designed to make you crave quantity over quality.

App Addiction

Each time you feel your phone go off, your brain gives you a small hit of dopamine. That means physiologically, online dating gets you hooked in the same way addictive substances do.

One study showed the average Tinder user spends over 90 minutes per day swiping and chatting in the app. Another report says Millennials spend about 10 hours per week online dating. That’s like having a #sidehustle you don’t get paid for. 

There is a gamification element to swiping as well. Whenever you get a notification, it feels like you’ve won somehow. Even if you have no intention of ever meeting that person, just the match alone gives you a fix. This is how people get addicted to things like video games and gambling. 

In fact, dating apps were designed with the same psychological principles as Vegas slot machines. They hijack your pleasure centers and create a false reward system

Think about it, how many times have you deleted and reinstalled your go-to app? It creates a toxic environment where the app makes you feel bad about yourself, so you delete it. Then, you start feeling lonely, and that makes you feel bad too. So you download it all over again. 

“People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the internet and cell phones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales. With growing support for the connection between technology use and mental health, the relationship between motivation for cell phone or internet use and well-being warrants further exploration.” –Alejandro Lleras

The number of bots and spam accounts would shock you. Some apps even hire employees who chat with users under fake profiles in order to engage them in the app more. 

Rejection Remorse

In a 2010 study, researchers at Rutgers University found that looking at your ex triggers the same part of the brain as a cocaine addiction, creating an obsession with romantic rejection. About half of all messages go unanswered, so people are experiencing rejection on an unprecedented level.

The human brain can’t tell the difference between physical and emotional pain—rejection literally hurts

“This phenomenon is a legacy of our hunter-gatherer past, when we lived in nomadic tribes. Back when a person couldn’t survive alone without their tribe, “rejection served as an early warning system that alerted us we were in danger of being ostracized—of being voted off the island.”

Dr. Guy Winch, Psychologist and Author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts

Before the apps, people had to take a chance and flirt in person, so they might get rejected a few times at a bar on Friday night. Now, they might get rejected 5 times by their phone while they’re sitting in a bar also being shot down. That will take a toll on the most confident person’s self-esteem.

Did you know that one third of online daters have never met anyone IRL that they matched with on the apps?

Bad Behavior

The screen gives users a sense of anonymity, which often leads to them acting out in ways they probably wouldn’t otherwise. There’s a certain level of anonymity to online dating. Most of the time, you’re swiping, messaging, and meeting complete strangers. You likely don’t have common friends and run in very different circles.

This allows one to pull off a disappearing act quite easy. Over half of today’s daters claim to have first-hand experience with Ghosting, many going a step further to Haunting.

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 53% admitted to lying on their profile

Going beyond typical bad behavior, there is a darker side to the internet.

Romance scams reached new heights in 2020. Scammers saw how many Americans were stuck in quarantine, and they acted. The Federal Trade Commission reported a record $304 million lost in romance scams throughout 2020. That’s up 50% from the previous year.

Whether it’s a light case of hatfishing or a deep fake, the internet is filled with liars and phonies.

“Women should be aware that they probably will receive rude/disgusting messages from horny guys, sexual propositions/requests, nude pics, and a lot of creepy vibes.” -Ryan Anderson, Ph.D

It’s not uncommon to receive messages on apps containing vulgar or abusive content. Explicit requests, violent threats, unsolicited nudes…it’s like the Wild West of sexual harassment out there. Please, be safe.

Estimates show at the rate things are going, by 2040 70% of couples will have met online. So, online dating isn’t going away anytime soon. If anything, they will probably get more Black Mirror-y as artificial intelligence evolves.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to get off the apps and into a meaningful relationship? Stop swiping, and join The Setup today