The “Swipe” culture
When I was growing up, the verb “swipe” meant to steal something. And maybe it still does in some remote way. Potentially, you can steal a heart or even some’s self-confidence, depending on the direction you swipe. It seems that we can get just about anything we want nowadays by clicking on an app. It’s never been quicker, and it’s never been easier. And it’s especially true when it comes to hooking up. All you need to do is swipe right or left. Moreover, you can do this whenever and wherever you like. As a “Boomer” who admittedly is not part of the swipe culture, I tend to wonder how this is affecting the dating process. The whole procedure seems so easy, it makes me wonder if people treat it more like a game or maybe something to do when they are bored and contemplating a quick hook-up. Do you really want to meet all the people you swipe “right” to? Have you even read their full profile or simply gone by the pics? Or are you just giving them a “courtesy swipe” (when you swipe on someone you know/friends of friends just to be nice). As I said earlier, I’ve never been on Tinder, Grinder, Bumble or any of the other apps, but I have looked over people’s shoulders while they were in a swiping frenzy. It seems as if they’re saying yes as many times as possible and hoping that one of them might lead to a meaningful encounter. As for the rest, well I guess it’s a case of “two ships passing in the night,” i.e., a fleeting encounter at best.
Love the one you’re with
When I was a young man back in the 60s and 70s, we used to live by the old Crosby, Stills & Nash song: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” So, I’m not an old-fashioned prude. Far from it, in fact. But I wonder if people today have too many choices and options, which could lead them to keep on swiping for fear of maybe missing out on someone out there who may be even better? It might be like the old Rolling Stones tune: “Satisfaction” (I can’t get no satisfaction for those of you too young to remember). And that leads me to wonder about working hard and committing to a relationship. Are people still willing to put in the hard work any relationship requires to keep it going when there are so many fish in the sea out there (and apparently easy to hook and release again). Can people still form meaningful relationships or are people becoming disposable? Are these apps a place where people can find a match, date once, hook up or not, but not give it much effort?
A numbers game
The hyper-connected jungle out there puts an entire city within our reach. If it’s just a quick hook-up you’re interested in and nothing else, then this is great. If it’s clear you’re looking for a short-term relationship and both parties understand that, then they’re agreeing on the same conditions. But it becomes a problem when people use their profiles to pretend to look for a committed relationship when they really aren’t. So, what if you want a real relationship? Yes, I know, there are many serious dating sites out there, too, but I don’t know anyone on them (or at least they won’t admit to it). I wonder if people expect “instant relationships” just like we’ve come to expect and enjoy instant gratification? Is this even possible when we know so little about each other? How do we even know if the photo is real or the information provided (if any) is real? And more importantly, can this swiping culture damage self-esteem and make people unhappy?
Expectations and disappointments
Some users say that these apps can lead to “body confidence” problems since you’re always comparing yourself with your competition. Another problem is the heavy emphasis placed on what you see in a photo, say other users. The idea of a person you develop from a pic can lead to expectations and disappointments. This pretty much dovetails with the results of a study two years ago by the University of North Texas, which found that “male Tinder users reported lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and bodies and lower levels of self-worth than those not on the dating app.” Professor of psychology and co-author of the study at the University of North Texas, states: “With a focus on appearance and social comparisons, individuals can become overly sensitized to how they look and appear to others and ultimately begin to believe that they fall short of what is expected of them in terms of appearance and attractiveness.”
Many users have reported higher levels of sadness, distress and depression, as well as pressure to be thin and attractive. The non-profit organization Time Well Spent recently polled some 200,000 iPhone users and found that the dating app Grindr topped a list of apps that made people feel most unhappy. Tinder placed ninth, according to the poll. Findings like these don’t surprise me, but they do concern me. What happens when you receive rejection after rejection after rejection? It’s possible that you would begin to feel that you’re not worthy and develop harmful, negative feelings about yourself. According to Jo Hemmings, a behavioral psychologist and dating coach, the casual way people use dating apps is simply depersonalized dating. Apps that focus primarily on swiping on a limited number of photos cause frustration. Apps that feature detailed questionnaires, biographies and more images, demand more investment in your romantic life, Hemmings believes. “There’s more profile information on both sides, which makes the process seem more human and real,” she says.
Were the 60s and 70s any better?
If the truth be known, the casual, free sex of the 60s and 70s that we Boomers experienced were probably no better. I think we spent time (a little, at least) getting to know a person before we hopped into bed with them. At least I think we did, but maybe age has dimmed my memories. The main difference, I believe, is that meeting face-to-face encouraged us to try and – as we said in those days – gaze into each other’s souls before we “gazed” at other parts of the person. And perhaps there is one much more important difference. I have no memory of body shaming or slut shaming people. It’s easy to do that anonymously today. In the old days, if you wanted to insult/shame someone, you had to do it face-to-face, which is much harder.
I will tell you one thing (as hard and cringey as it probably is for young people today to picture us aging Boomers with our wrinkled and sagging bodies as youthful people who loved sex as much – maybe more – as you do today), the “Summer of Love” was a mind-boggling ripper! For those too young to be familiar with the expression, the Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred in 1967, when up to 100,000 people, mostly young people and hippies, converged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to celebrate music, drugs, anti-war demonstrations and free love. Kind of hard to picture your parents or maybe even grandparents doing that, isn’t it? Is the old culture of the 60s and 70s better than the swipe culture and love in an algorithmic age? That’s for you to decide.