Why is dating so hard now, according to experts?

Why is dating so hard now, according to experts?

It was still early days, but Flo had a positive feeling about Jack – a man she had been seeing for three months. The pair met at the wristband, Flo slipping right after Jack’s snarky one-liners made her smile.

Their first date – after a few drinks at work – was the most fun they’d had in a while. The pair then met twice a week: more drinks, dinner, movie nights – Jack even took Flo to a warehouse rave with his best friends.

She’d never been tagged—it didn’t seem necessary—but a blush warmed Flo’s face every time her name lit up her phone. That was until one day Jack stopped texting. No Explanation, No Answer: Flo has been blocked and her WhatsApp messages to Jack are marked by a lone gray tick.

“I was angry,” says the 24-year-old publicist Flo a year later. Like all dates in this play, she speaks anonymously to protect her privacy. “But this sort of thing happens all the time. I’ve been ghosted before and I’m going to be ghosted again. But part of me thinks what the fuck is the point? It just doesn’t make me want to bother dating.”

Flo’s sentiments resonate with singles who are increasingly depressed and exhausted in their arduous quest to find love. According to a 2022 American study, four out of five adultsexperienced some degree of emotional fatigue” about online dating. Elsewhere, Hinge research found that 61 percent of users find the modern dating process “oppressive.”

Jasmin, the 28-year-old writer, has felt this sometimes in the past three years. After meeting her previous two partners through school and work, she decided to try her luck with dating apps.

“I alternate between an abundance and a scarcity mindset,” he explains. “There are times when I feel overwhelmed by meeting so many guys. It almost feels like a game. But then translating those matches into actual, decent dating experiences is so rare that I feel like there’s nothing.

Since the launch of Tinder in 2012, apps have changed dating significantly. They certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – 300 million people have dating app profiles and more will by 2035 they met their partner online like in real life.

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“Dating apps have changed the digital dating landscape because of the collection of convenient features they’ve brought to the table, which I call ‘comfort intimacies,'” he explains. Dr. Rachel Katz, a digital media sociologist at the University of Salford who researches dating apps. “They are often image-based, mobile, geo-located, use a swipe mechanism, and have an ‘opt-in-chat’ feature. People had an active role in choosing who they wanted to match with.

“People love the convenience these features provide. But at the same time, this comfort can also bring negative experiences: transactional language, ghostly and objectifying language. Additionally, these behaviors in dating apps have fewer social consequences than in real-life interactions—it is possible that repeated negative experiences may lead to dating app burnout.

“Decision fatigue and the paradox of choice may be part of what people find frustrating about dating apps.”

The convenience of a large number of connections may come at the price of quality communication between matches, adds psychotherapist and couple counselor Hilda Burke.

“Dating apps make initial matches text-based,” he explains. “In his book Silent messages, Professor Albert Mehrabian developed the theory that only 7 percent of meaning is communicated by what we say: 38 percent is tone of voice, 55 percent is body language. We’re so text-dependent on dating apps that we only get about 7 percent of what a person is thinking. It allows for ambiguity.”

The widening canyon of uncertainty and additional layers of gray area can contribute to “mismatched goals” between daters, Katz adds.

“People use dating apps for a number of reasons, such as dating app tourism, making connections, chatting against loneliness, boosting self-esteem and finding a long-term partner,” he says. “Different mindsets, times and spaces influence these uses. There are also conflicts about when and how to convey these goals—hence the ghosting, or if the conversation turns sexual too soon.”

But why is there now a growing vocal backlash against dating culture? Perhaps a decade of exploring an increasingly murky hell has left singles exhausted and fed up, explains therapist and hell founder Jodie Cariss. Self Spaceis a mental health service that organizes regular Slow Dating events.

“With the instant gratification and choice people have and the distance behind an app, it’s much easier to hide in the dating world without getting too invested in the person behind the app,” he says. “We’re going to be more hidden and isolated, and perhaps lonelier because of it.”

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For Flo, hooking up via text preamble is her least favorite part of the modern dating process. “I feel like a lot of the conversation is copy-paste and every chat is the same,” he explains. “I’m not much of a texter myself.” But if someone I met doesn’t text me for a day, I immediately think they’re just ghosted.

Ghosting is an increasingly common phenomenon. According to a study conducted this year by the University of Georgia, two out of three people have haunted someone they were on a date with – and become a ghost victim themselves.

“It’s depressing that it’s almost flattering when someone is polite enough to let you know they didn’t feel the spark,” explains Flo. “It feels like dating someone, it’s like having a page open and people closing it when they’re done. In a city like London, you’re unlikely to meet again – there’s no consequence. It puts me on guard from the start and keeps my date at arm’s length.”

The lack of accountability isn’t down to straight dating: Dan, who has been single for four years, has experienced “brutal” behavior from guys he’s been in relationships with.

“It’s almost like people are dating for the content,” says the author and broadcaster. “I’ve seen people just share wild screenshots of Grindr on social media just for likes. I think we need a huge ethical shift in dating. We have fallen into this ugly pit where we treat people badly because we can. We have to remember that we are dating the person, not their phone number.”

After a string of bad dates, Flo changed her priorities. He is tired of sliding and puts the emphasis on the already established platonic relationship. “I was alone in the lockdown,” he said. “When restrictions eased, I wanted to spend time with friends and family and have a guaranteed good time, rather than go on dates. Now, because of the increased cost of living, I’d rather spend money on meeting friends than go on dates that lead to nothing.”

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Jasmin adds that time is a resource that is badly wasted. “I’m open to meeting someone, but only if I’m happy with my life right now,” she says. “I know I have to take time to get to know someone, but I have my own place, a good job and good friends. Something special would be needed – but we all hold back on dates or hedge our bets on a number of possibilities.

“I’m tired of the dystopian and clinical nature of dating apps. Gatekeeper apps like Hinge and Tinder try to get you to pay for the premium version, teasing that if you pay you can meet “The One”. It feels bad that apps dictate who you meet, so I try not to use them as much.”

Jasmin is not alone in choosing to meet in real life: in 2021, Eventbrite saw a 200 percent increase in attendance at speed dating events. Meanwhile, apps like Thursday and Bumble are trying a hybrid approach, offering real-life events alongside app messaging.

Dan meets more men in bars and clubs and finds that he has better luck forming relationships. Meanwhile, Jasmin started visiting guys at concerts and at the gym.

“Dating sucks, but the pandemic and the cost of living has shown us that we’re ready and able to adapt to dating,” explains Dan. “Under the given circumstances, we will continue the date. Be it apps, real life, or somewhere in between. How we date is determined by the current climate.”

Jasmin agrees, and is optimistic that general depression about dating will lead to a kinder and more considerate date.

“However, dating fatigue is always something everyone has to juggle,” she adds. “It will always be messy and complicated, just as people are messy and complicated. It will never be easy and painless.”

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