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Opinion: Dating Apps And Modern Romance: For Better Or Worse?

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains information about sexual assault statistics.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m encouraging any singletons not to worry about their missing ‘other half’ and instead recognise that they are whole already. I’ve surmised that the dire state of online dating helped me to reach this level of inner peace; I realised how disillusioned with dating I’ve become. Call it apathy, call it exhaustion, but let’s unpack the gruelling (overhyped) battle that is modern dating.

On sites like Hinge, Her, and Bumble, I was able to present a perfect, clean copy of myself. For some reason, talking to people felt inorganic and a little bit contrived. I know that you have to start somewhere when getting to know someone new, but I think the fact that we were all lumped in together on this little app was just an unnatural phenomenon for me! It goes to show the power of social media; you can form a relationship with just about anyone, as long as you have internet access.

I’ve got friends who have dating app success stories - and I love that for them - but I feel that the overriding view is that dating apps can be soul-destroying. According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, there is a link between using dating apps and feeling lonely and dissatisfied. We’re social creatures; is it any wonder why swiping endlessly on profiles leads to a feeling of disconnect from the wider world? Just like any other social media platform, they’re addictive, and so disappointment tends to ensue.

Maybe I’m the problem! But perhaps it doesn’t help that we live in a society that conditions women to believe that they have to find that special someone - a predominantly patriarchal society that chips away at their self-esteem through unrealistic body expectations among other ways. If we instil in women the belief that they aren’t enough, then surely one way to remedy this is to also promote the suggestion that being in a relationship will complete you: something that dating apps promise to deliver on!

Does my feminism-infused sarcasm come across as bitterness towards that February 14th date on the calendar?

Not when women’s safety is a key issue here. Unsolicited pictures, harassment, and revenge nudes are among the many threats that online dating poses. The entitlement some men believe they have comes to light once they’re behind a screen; in a post #MeToo world, we find that nothing has changed. In a 2019 survey by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations of 1,200 women who were dating app users in the past 15 years, “more than a third of the women said they were sexually assaulted by someone they had met through a dating app”.

So yes, this is very much a feminist issue. I firmly believe that these apps should be making a lot more effort to create a safer space for their female users, making for a more enjoyable experience.

Needless to say, after a rocky year of dating, I found that the world didn’t end just because I was going out into it solo. If you’re working through something similar, you’re not alone, even if you feel it. Being a feminist, I’m all for women making decisions that are right for themselves; if dating apps are your thing, by all means, go for it and play the field but be sure to take care of yourself in the process. We need to show girls that finding yourself - connecting with the music you love, spending time with friends, discovering your favourite pastimes - can also be a really beautiful love story, that manifests from within.

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