For the record, my answer to the question posed in this title is an unequivocal "yes." Despite good friends and acquaintances finding the diamonds in the rough of the digital dating-sphere - diamonds that have become parts of trusting, committed relationships, no less - the reality of dating nowadays is a tough nut to crack. We're in an age where swipes, taps, and rates determine our eligibility to just be considered for face-to-face contact, let alone an actual date; that requires days of built-up convos and detective-level stalking of each other's social media. While apps have made communicating with interested parties much easier nowadays, the transition from that to a real connection is as realistic as Carrie Bradshaw choosing to not blow rent money on Manolos.
Photo: Hian Oliveira on Unsplash
Not to discredit Carrie, of course. Film (like Sex and the City, for reference) has built dating up to be a more approachable topic of discussion or action; anyone can ask anyone out now, and the length of the ask can range from casual to extravagant. The millennial generation's ideal romances, really, stem from the TV and movies that made up our childhoods and young adult lives; you'd be hard pressed to find anyone on Twitter not ranting about finding the Allie to their Noah (or, in recent months, the Elio to their Oliver) right now. We look up to aughts-era cinematics, when IM’s were the only online method of casually chatting and doing anything face-to-face was the only way to express romantic interest. Today, people asking each other out in-person, let alone staying together for over one month, is celebrated as a milestone, when in reality it's just above the relationship bar's ground level. At much of the generation's core, we want the 10 Things I Hate About You and Cinderella Story-style romances, but who's willing to abandon their phones - and, further, those phones' dating apps - to pursue romance for romance's sake? There is a legitimacy to these apps: they make locating people (interested in a range of intimacies) easier, and with any number of filters at our disposal - plus blocking features - we can easily narrow down our “types” and what we’re looking for on them.
However, as much as we’d like to deny it, the amount of time and attention we give these apps is sad. After indecisively adding them onto my phone and deleting them days later, I’ve realized they take up way too much of my time. Flirting and chatting are perfectly fine uses for these apps, but if I really want to have a real-life connection with someone offline, I need to disconnect. It simply becomes emotionally exhausting swiping through a sea of over-filtered faces and topless torsos that won’t be going anywhere. In my own experience, I can spend 2-3 hours daily on dating apps, and if a week goes by when I’m consistently active, my hours using them take up a full day.
After pondering this topic, a la Miss Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder: have dating apps ruined dating?
Really, they have. Right off the bat, the immediate lack of face-to-face contact leaves those logged in - whether to Tinder, Grindr, Christian Mingle (pick your poison), etc. - with no remorse and minimal responsibility to make effort or be honest. Those involved shouldn't be entering the sphere heart-first. Digital dating immediately causes a distinct minimal commitment to others, which streams into minimal emotional damage, but nobody's left unscathed. There's the consistent curiosity to log back in, the ask that eats away at our minds of if we've even gotten - or are presenting ourselves as worthy of - a decent message back, the "I'm not good enough" bug that bites us and latches on. It's a vicious cycle, and it's not worth undergoing if someone truly wants the harder-to-get, movie-worthy dating experience. If that's what people want, then why aren't we working for it? Why aren't we logging off our phones and entering the real world? The truth of it is that the fear of IRL rejection and the overall risk of public embarrassment is just too great. Dating apps have created a number of ways to avoid the instant burn of someone telling you directly to your face that they're not interested.
This isn't to say that dating apps are completely awful, even if they have ruined the classic, real experiences of dating. The absence of a serious offense from ask rejection is a slight perk; after all, who wants their crush (or other party) to point-blank tell them "no?" And, as previously mentioned, it's much easier to see the kinds of people we attract and determine our "types" for future references.
But the truth of the matter is that, by minimizing our face-to-face contact with the majority of those "looking" (what that even means anymore is beyond my understanding, as finding a partner is not on the same level as checking out an IHOb menu for most people, I can hope) these apps make us lose sight of what we're really looking for. That can differ from person to person, but the online factor puts up walls that shouldn't be erected in the first place. If we could log out of the hookup-ready landscape of digital dating, we'd be able to see that these applications have made the real experiences of dating that much harder to find. There's still hope, but it's undeniable that apps have permanently altered the realities of dating.
Aaron Royce, 20, is a student and journalist with writing experience for print and online publications. His journalism interest began when he started reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue before entering high school; he was a co-editor for the school’s newspaper and arts magazine. Post-graduation, he attended Christopher Newport University before transferring to NOVA’s Annandale campus, where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a Communications major. He recently completed a summer as Northern Virginia Magazine’s style intern, and now writes for online publications and interns with ArtJamz Creative Director, RMCI Senior Designer and fashion blogger Anchyi Wei.