This year marks the 10th year of swipe-induced thumb strains, nagging chat-up lines, and the curious invention of “ghosting.”
Tinder is growing up. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the emotional maturity and accountability of those in power in today’s dating app industry.
The dating app invasion has produced a variety of positive effects, such as a destigmatization of sexuality, the opportunity to explore new experiences and places, and the chance to form a lasting, loving relationship. However, these are currently being overshadowed by the negligence and total lack of psychological support provided by these apps.
Over the course of Tinder’s 10-year dominance, we’ve seen an increasing number of reports showing how these apps negatively impact our brain chemistry. While we mustn’t overlook the fact that many successful relationships — and a third of marriages — stem from platforms like Tinder, the reality is that these apps’ business models rely on continuous swiping.
This problem lies at the heart of the general dating app system: it’s not designed to create healthy relationships and connections; Rather, it is designed to trigger the brain’s reward system. When we receive a notification that we match someone, or even the simple act of looking through attractive faces, it leads to increased activity in the region of our brain involved in reward processing.
There’s nothing inherently bad about stimulating dopamine production; In the short term, that feels great. However, when we build up our dopamine pathways in the unhealthy, excessive way that Tinder and its companions do, it has a negative impact on people’s mental well-being in the long run.
While dating apps trigger the release of dopamine, they fail to activate the complementary opioid system, which springs to life when we have high feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. The teams of psychologists employed by these apps have developed models to give you an intense high that wears off quickly, leaving you motivated to keep scrolling as you try to hunt down more of that feeling.
That being said, a 2016 study found that dating app users report lower self-esteem and psychosocial well-being compared to non-users. Online dating also has a worrying association with increased rates of depression. Around 50 percent of Tinder matches never get back in touch, adding to this ever-present sense of rejection.
Dating apps have become melting pots of mental health issues and broken connections, and the blame lies squarely with those who run those apps. They must take responsibility for the impact their systems may have on users’ well-being and provide emotional, psychological and relational support.
The data leak that erupted from Ashley Madison, the extramarital affair platform, fueled allegations that the company was faking female profiles to lure more men to the site. The company boasts a 70/30 split between women and men, but of the over 35 million leaked records, only 5 million belong to women. This embodies the prioritization of profits over user welfare that sadly permeates the dating app industry.
When dating apps don’t offer this help, users need to seek support and learn what they can do to better protect themselves from the emotional and psychological issues that these platforms can foster. That includes setting boundaries and being 100 percent clear about what you want when stepping into these apps, and not deviating from it in the name of the next short-lived dopamine hit.
Dating apps are becoming emotional war zones. Instead of making peace offers, these companies act as provocateurs. Therefore, it is up to us to strengthen our psychological defenses and strengthen our mental arsenals as much as possible and allow us to have real fun on these platforms.
We can achieve this by taking steps to do the necessary self-work and self-reflection before we plunge headlong into a battle that has been raging for 10 years.