The Great Debate: Online dating

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Photograph: Mae Reddaway

Yes- Bethany Crow 

Oh, the dating app. A modern phenomenon that has completely revolutionised the way people meet. Of course, they have their pros and cons .

The roots of dating apps lie firmly in the wider concept of online dating; something that was once seemingly strictly reserved for those who were incapable of finding a partner through ‘normal human interaction’. But now things are the other way round; amongst my friendship circles, now it feels almost unheard of for someone to meet someone through one of those ‘normal interactions’.

I should perhaps clarify this by talking about my own experiences with dating apps, and the wider dating world. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’ve dated people who I’ve met through pretty much every means considered possible, but I would say I’m not far off. One time I even went speed-dating (which was an  enormously fun experience, but alas, did not lead to any form of fulfilling relationship). But out of meeting people in pubs, being introduced via friends, and office romances, dating apps have by far, for me, generated the most success. And not just that, they’re also fun to use, providing us with an easy way to access a pool of potentially interested and interesting individuals.

To set the scene, I’ll take you back to December 2014, when I decided that I was going to ‘do the Tinder thing’ seriously. Without going in to the nitty-gritty details, I found it pretty successful for pretty much every avenue considered; I met people who I went on great romantic dates with, I met people who I would still consider myself to be friends with now, and I met someone who I’ve been in a very happy relationship with for three years.

That’s not to say that my time Tinder-ing wasn’t without its downfalls. Of course, there were the standard unsolicited “dick pics”, crude conversations, and people who were looking to cheat on their partners; all situations which I found myself caught up in to some extent.

These seem to be the things people point to when criticising dating apps. However, perhaps with the exception of the dick pic phenomenon, everyone could still fall foul to the other pitfalls I mentioned, regardless of whether they were using a dating app or otherwise. Just a few examples: the woman this week who received unsolicited messages from a takeaway delivery driver, the catcalls that we receive on a daily basis, the person who gave you their number in a club who has a partner waiting for them at home.

Dating apps perhaps make it easier for those who wish to use it for such degenerate purposes to do so, but they do also attempt to work around these issues. Although I have never used it myself, female friends tell me they are big fans of Bumble, as the mechanism of the woman having to initiate the messaging often keeps the “dick pic sending type” at bay.

Dating apps are now such an intrinsic part of life, to not embrace them to some extent seems foolish. I remember a few years ago a friend laughing at me “getting an app to an app”, as I arranged an Uber to take me to meet a Tinder date. I remember people gasping in some sort of disbelief when I said that I had met my partner on Tinder. Now, this is met with no surprise at all.

Of course, like all modern technologies, dating apps aren’t without their faults – even Black Mirror has taken the issue on in its latest series. But for me, the issues that arise from dating apps aren’t specific to it’s technological advancements; they are simply just wider issues that have always come up in the world of dating, and will contiune to do so.

 

No – Adam Rawlings 

Dating apps continue to be a dominant part of dating and hook up culture across society and are something that I, as a serial dating app user, have a complicated relationship with. On one hand these apps are the perfect environments for acute misogyny and sexual objectification, but on the other hand they are a necessity for any singleton in 2018. How else are we supposed to meet new people so quickly and efficiently? In a pub?

As someone who identifies as a gay man, I have predominantly used Grindr. But in my quest for everyone from “Mr Right” to “Mr Right Now” I’ve also used Tinder, Surge, Hornet, and the list of dating apps goes on and on and on. They all share one common issue, regardless of swiping, tapping or simply just messaging people, they all operate on a very superficial basis. It’s all about looks, and when you look a little out of the box (like I do) you can become a target both for very hyper-sexualised advances and, you guessed it, discrimination. In the gay community there is the enduring ‘no fats, no femmes, no (insert POC group here)’ mentality that haunts Grindr users the world over. It’s okay to have a preference but the environment that online dating creates makes people more able to translate that ‘preference’ into flat out discrimination. Sadly, this problem isn’t specific to apps for gay men, I have experienced some of my worst interactions with people on Tinder.

That brings me to the heart of my disdain for the world of dating apps, the constant focus on sex. It all comes down to sex. This makes that “Mr Right Now” I mentioned earlier pretty easy to find, but good luck finding someone who will first of all be your type and secondly be interested in more than one night of ‘fun’ (as many Grindr users put it). The whole notion of ‘dating’ apps isn’t really dating at all, or at least in my experience they aren’t. So once again I ask, what’s the alternative?

Back before the rise of smartphones, and the internet all together, gay people had cruising spots to meet people and have sex. So really Grindr is just the consumer age evolution of that culture, making me feel like sometimes we don’t really have any alternative options. This isn’t to say that Grindr is 100% men only interested in one night stands, and even if you are a user who only wants casual sex that’s okay. Like I said before I’ve looked for one night stands as much as I have a boyfriend. But the proliferation of hookup culture that these apps facilitate makes it impossible to open your phone without upwards of five unsolicited dick pics, or offers of sex with people who don’t even have a face (I’m referring to profile pictures, not literally faceless men), but are just eerily somewhere in your vicinity. Ultimately it is for these reasons that I continue to go back to Grindr, and Tinder, and Surge- every time a little hopeful, or a little disappointed. But sometimes a little satisfied, because “Mr Right Now” was who I was looking for at the time.