Being unlucky in love might have something to do with the way we use our favourite dating apps, according to a clinical psychologist.
If you’ve ever navigated the world of online dating, you’ll know well what a minefield it can be. And even if you haven’t fallen down a scroll rabbit hole while searching for The One yourself, you’ll have heard some horror stories from friends over a glass of wine.
Don’t get me wrong, many people have dating app success stories. Tinder – which has brought together over 55 billion matches since it launched – claims that the success rate for heterosexual women on the app is an impressive 52%. According to Hinge, 72% of meet ups arranged via its app lead to a second date.
So where have the rest of us been going wrong: getting ghosted or sitting through an awkward first date until a socially acceptable amount of time has passed to make excuses and leave?
It might not just be bad luck that’s leaving you in a dating dry spell. According to clinical psychologist Dr Alina Liu, it could actually be the way that many apps are designed that is causing us to be unlucky in love.
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Writing for Psychology Today, Dr Liu explains that the thousands of dating apps on offer have capitalised on dating becoming an “addictive game”.
And it’s true, when we’re spending a lazy Sunday swiping through all the potential partners within a five mile radius, does it not sometimes feel more like an entertaining distraction than a serious quest to meet someone?
“Swiping right is the ultimate mating dance, and the instantaneous “match” symbol triggers the release of a cascade of neurotransmitters, including a flood of dopamine, a powerful reward agent that underlies many addictive behaviours,” Dr Liu writes.
“The gamification of dating apps transforms the act of swiping into a highly rewarded activity similar to slot machines, where winning (aka matching) takes place at random intervals that would in turn act as a powerful reinforcement that leaves us craving more,” Dr Liu continues.
“Whereas the purpose of dating used to be finding partners to build deeper connections,” she says, we’re increasingly becoming removed from the actual consequences of the action. In our meaningless swiping, we’re detaching ourselves from the possibility of something greater emerging.
What’s more, Dr Liu suggests that spending so much time at the mercy of the app’s algorithm that tailors what and who we see to our “preference”, as human’s we’ve begun to develop our own scripts that dictate whether we interact with a match.
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While features like Tinder’s Blind Date tool, which matches you with someone else without either of your full profiles being revealed, use artificial intelligence to predict patterns, many of us are actually developing our own lists of red flags and turn-offs that predetermine our dating behaviour.
“Many people have developed dating algorithms over time,” explains Dr Liu. “Who picked up the bill? Did the other person seem too overly enthusiastic or eager? Did they text you immediately after the first date or did they leave you on read for three days before responding? Every detail becomes a new set of filtering criteria to determine whether you will see this person again.”
And the seemingly endless dating pool means that it’s also never been easier to ghost someone or cool things off with a well-crafted message before trekking forward onto the dating safari.
But should we be concerned that the tools we’ve employed to help us find partnerships could potentially be sabotaging them? Not exactly.
“I worry that having algorithms that curate to our preferences means we lose sight of our values, the space to have difficult conversations, or the courage to embrace emotional vulnerability,” shares Dr Liu.
“We are sheltered from confronting differences by dating algorithms with each layer of filter applied. We limit ourselves from being challenged and close ourselves up to differences. In my clinical experience, successful relationships are often not built on similarities but rather on the capacity to tolerate and reconcile differences.”
However, this isn’t to say that uninstalling our apps and making eyes across a crowded bar is the only way forward.
“For the next date, try being more mindful with each swipe, applying one less filtering criteria, and having a difficult conversation in person,” Dr Liu advises.