The Pitfalls of Dating Apps (and How to Manage Them)

Through dating apps, finding 'the one' has never been easier and more convenient. Yet we should always temper our optimism with caution. While it is true that dating apps do help people get into relationships, in some instances, dating apps hurt more than they help.

[Photo: Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash]

By Gabriel

Mobile applications are truly a technological marvel in today’s digital world. Need something to keep you occupied during your long train commute? Netflix’s got you covered; Genshin Impact, if mobile gaming is your cup of tea. Want to get food or groceries without leaving the front door? Grab is your best friend. But what about finding a relationship? 

Enter dating apps. While no two dating apps are alike, they all work similarly. All you have to do is enter your dating preferences, and the algorithm will generate a list of suitable dating options for you to choose from.

Through dating apps, finding ‘the one’ has never been easier and more convenient. After all, Singaporeans are no strangers to online dating, as attested by the fact that slightly more than a third of local millennials have used a dating app at some point in their lives. 

Moreover, Singaporeans are somewhat open to meeting their partners online, according to a Milieu Insight survey that found 64 per cent of males are open to meeting their partners either online or offline, while just slightly below half — 49 per cent — for females. It would be no surprise if dating apps are a quick fix to take care of one’s dating woes.

Yet we should always temper our optimism with caution. While it is true that dating apps do help people get into relationships, they create more problems than solutions. In some instances, dating apps hurt more than they help.

Match or no match, it doesn’t matter

An obvious limitation of dating apps is the massive gender imbalance as there are significantly more male than female users. In the United States, the number of male users outnumbers female users three-to-one on Tinder, whereas in the United Kingdom, it is a whopping nine-to-one. Why does this matter? 

It means that a large pool of men would be competing with a small pool of women, making it difficult for men to get as many matches as women. Also, given that men tend to swipe right three times more than women, women are more likely to benefit from the constant stream of matches, whereas men struggle to find a sizable number of matches — if at all.

If you are a guy who uses dating apps without paying a premium, be prepared to receive even fewer matches as non-premium members only hold a limited number of swipes per day.

Still, this does not mean that women have it easier than men. Because women receive more matches than men, they are bound to receive more online messages. Yet these online messages they receive are often creepy, if not downright offensive. In fact, a 2013 Pew Research Center study found that women are twice more likely than men to experience uncomfortable contact through dating sites or apps. 

Imagine having to swipe right on guys only to receive several indecent remarks and comments. Ironically, having more matches backfires as it becomes harder for women to find decent conversations or a good quality partner.

Rise of internet love scams

Another consequence of using dating apps is how they facilitate internet love scams. Internet love scams are becoming prevalent, especially in recent years. In 2020, the number of reported love scams in Singapore was 822 – that number increased to 1099 a year later.

Sure, ‘ghosting’ — that is, to sever contact with somebody without prior notice — may work when encountering a fishy person. But the problem comes when the intentions of the other person become difficult to ascertain. 

This is because love scammers typically use a clever trick – they play on feelings of affection and love, making them appear genuine in order to gain the trust of their victims. Once established, the scammer can easily persuade the victim to do whatever they want, such as transferring large sums of money, and then suddenly disappear without a trace. 

Yet besides their high monetary cost — internet love scams cost victims a whopping total of $33.1 million — internet love scams also incur a high social cost. They erode trust among users on online dating platforms. 

In a world where scammers use dating apps to conduct illicit affairs, people will become increasingly wary and paranoid of one another. No one would trust the other individual enough to arrange a dinner date, let alone a simple meet-up.

Dating apps keep you single

One of the ironic things about dating apps is that they keep you single. It is crucial that we recognize that dating apps are essentially a business, and with every business, their goal is to make profits. 

If you get hitched with someone on the app, the dating app loses a source of potential revenue. These apps are essentially designed to keep you hooked. Psychologists assert that the presence of ‘likes’ and matches tap into your basic psychological need for validation. When you get a match, you feel valued, which increases your desire for more matches and ultimately, more swiping. 

Dating apps capitalize on this by including premium features such as unlimited swipes and letting you see users who already ‘like’ you. In a twisted way, these apps fuel an unhealthy obsession for external validation. Ultimately, we are left unsatisfied, despite having an abundance of matches. Perhaps it is no wonder why dating apps also contribute to poor mental health among their users.

A silver lining?

All of this is not to say that we should abandon dating apps or revert to 20th-century courtship methods. Dating apps can be beneficial if we understand the limitations of online dating.

Have your parent’s ever told you to be careful when meeting new people? That good ol’ saying may come in handy here. We should be wary of strangers we meet online, even if they appear nice or friendly. 

A key point to note is that trust cannot and should not be built in a short period of time, especially if nothing much is known about the other person.

In this case, quickly arranging physical meet-ups would be crucial in finding out more about the other person. After all, one’s intentions are easily murky behind a screen. We can also control our swiping binging by forcing ourselves to limit the number of people we match.

To avoid swipe-binging, less is probably more. Dr Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who is known for her work on human romance, suggests that we narrow our options to at least five to nine people and get to know them better first. By doing so, there might be a chance that love will blossom eventually.

The risks associated with dating apps can make finding a partner an unlikely prospect. However, if we navigate such risks well, dating apps can be a tool for our benefit and could possibly lead to positive romantic encounters.