I avoid dating apps because I think they’re completely dehumanizing. Companies like Match (which owns Tinder, Hinge, Match, Meetic, OkCupid, Pairs, Plenty Of Fish, Azar, Hakuna) monetize the desire for human connection to the tune of over $3 billion in annual revenue in the 12 months ending in June, 2023.

The apps deploy the little red notification icons to hijack the dopamine reward system in the brain. Then they make you pay to see who “likes” you. They make money by offering the illusion of erotic novelty and gamifying the quest for romantic or sexual validation. I truly believe this is why many “monogamous” partnered and married people are lurking around the apps behind their partner’s backs.

I decided to do a little social experiment and put a profile on a dating app for 24 hours (Friday morning to Saturday morning) using real, unfiltered photos and an accurate description of myself and my preferences.

Here’s what happened:
– 340 “Likes” (I’m had a free account so I didn’t look at any of these)
– 18 “Pings” (people paying the app to get my attention)
– 3 inbox messages
– I deactivated my account after 30 hours

I responded to all 3 messages I received. One of those people was deceitfully “unicorn hunting” by posing as a single bisexual woman when she was actually part of a couple seeking a threesome. One conversion wasn’t engaging enough to hold my attention. One message resulted in a FaceTime conversation and actual scheduled date. It remains to be seen whether I’ll be stood up or ghosted.

Driven by my curiosity, I spoke to a charitable cis/straight male friend of mine about his experience with apps. He lamented about the heavy use of filtered photos that cis/straight women use on their profiles. He showed me highly filtered photos of women that looked more like airbrushed cartoons than actual human faces. Clear evidence of insecurity in my opinion.

He also showed me profiles which are textbook examples of online scammers. We spoke at length about the use of dating apps by organized criminals to manipulate lonely or vulnerable individuals into relieving themselves of thousands of dollars. I suspect this type of theft is severely underreported due to embarrassment on the part of the victims.

While I understand that dating apps sometimes result in meaningful relationships, I remain suspect of the emotional distress and potential for financial exploitation that comes along with their use. As a colleague pointed out, “it’s a numbers game”. Just like winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. For the sake of your mental health, I suggest avoiding them when merely craving a hit of dopamine. I’ll go back to avoiding them altogether.

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