Why are dating apps stripping us of our humanity?

Today, despite the still sulfurous reputation, applications are a reliable way to meet partners for many French.

For example, almost a quarter of French people who have found a partner since the end of their first confinement have met on a dating app.

However, this type of platform still arouses mistrust among non-users, but also users. The latter sometimes encounters these applications as spaces of frustration and sometimes of suffering. In addition to what is familiar in the “supermarket of love”, we suggest examining the reasons why dating apps alienate or make their users something.

Designing an application that exploits the desire of love

Whatever their concept (except for slow dating apps that deliberately present a few profiles in qualitative logic) and their idiosyncrasies, dating apps aim to make meetings easier and faster. Like social networks, its primary economic stake is the acquisition, retention and monetization of its users. And just as with social networks, the business approach these platforms underpin have has dire consequences.



Read more: What happens in the brain when you fall in love?


Thus, when registering, applications simplify access to their group of people: often all you need is a Facebook account or a phone number and a photo on the platform. As users are poorly directed and advised, the quality of the profiles is affected.

According to the study we conducted as part of our book “Applications de Rencontre. Deciphering the New Consumerism in Love”, only 59% of male profiles provide a description and a third of them provide a description or bio of more than one sentence. The bad content of many profiles (or their very artificial appearance) means that we pay less attention to them, and that we do not take them seriously. As a result, the human behind the portrait is less visible. It should be noted that this phenomenon is less relevant on traditional dating sites (where registration fees require the development of a larger profile) and in some applications that encourage users to answer a large number of questions to feed their profiles.

Secret Algorithms

However, this first problem has only a relative effect on the desire of users, which is promised to meet a large number of singles. One or two photos can be enough to provoke a desire to meet. Here, the necessity of apps to retain subscribers can be detrimental. Nobody knows how the different profile suggestion algorithms are designed, only that, if we rely on the user experience as has been said, we realize that apps drop relevant profiles drop by drop, and fatigue tends to show up. This feeling leads to less involvement in the process Acquaintanceless interest in each profile presented, and thus the proliferation of unconstructive, even antisocial behaviours.

Finally, the need to monetize promising profiles also contributes to making dating apps frustration machines. These platforms should reduce the natural performance of these users to encourage them to choose paid options (to highlight their profile, to be able to like an unlimited number of profiles or spam, etc.). This system allows dating apps to be among the most profitable in the world.

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So the average user, drawn to apps of apparent freedom, finds themselves in a kind of purgatory where their experience is deliberately frustrating, in contrast to the initial promise of platforms, which have been plagued by the self-esteem problems one faces. I can imagine. Thus we notice that a number of users cling tightly to the slightest contact and some develop aggressiveness.

A fertile system of antisocial behaviour

The design of dating apps, combined with the nature of cyberspace, promotes antisocial behavior and thus tends to dehumanize online dating. We discuss here some obvious examples that were relevant to us in the course of our study.

First of all, among the criteria for adoption of dating applications, two aspects are regularly mentioned: engaging in the logic of homophily or openness to new horizons. If this sounds contradictory, our research demonstrates that these two approaches lead to a similar search behavior: over-translation.

According to our study, 73.8% of respondents consider themselves to be more selective in terms of criteria in apps than in offline life. This excessive style corresponds to a very pronounced tendency to focus one’s attention on criteria designed as personal preferences but often stemming from the application system such as age, height, skin color, hair, occupation, level of studies, religion, quality of spelling, etc. .

This hyper-style often goes hand in hand with excessive eclecticism. Therefore, the lowest element of the profile may be considered by the user to be disabled and therefore every incompatible profile will be excluded at any time. This phenomenon, if it seems benign or legitimate, tends to empty the meeting process of its meaning, make it more artificial, and establish the famous “ready-to-throw” atmosphere that has been fiercely denounced on applications. Ironically, excessive writing and excessive selectivity are the other side of the coin of a lot of profiles.

violence shadows

Therefore shadows It has established itself as an act of violence that has been normalized and internalized by users. This term comes from the English word “ghost” (ghost) which refers to the fact of not giving news to someone suddenly and definitively, for no apparent reason. According to our study, 53% of men and 80% of women admit that they have already done so during their lifetime Acquaintance. It is interesting to note that a file shadows It is also practiced after a “real” meeting after exchanges about dating apps. So it’s not just an app design issue; The Abundance System they created is also changing human interactions outside the virtual world. There are several elements that favor this practice over applications: periodic consumption of platforms (users subscribe and unsubscribe according to their romantic status), incentive to flirt with several people at the same time, decontextualization of meetings (i.e. social context does not reinforce the bond between two people), bad perception – paradoxical – what we have about other users on these platforms (this is the case of 54% of the participants in our study), the fact of regularly being a victim of shadows and the desire to “give back”.

The issue of excessive writing also presents more extreme cases, for example sedition, especially for minorities. Numerous testimonies, as well as the work of the French researcher Mark Jahja Highlight this phenomenon in applications. In this case, profiling consists in not considering your interlocutor as an individual per se, but assimilating them into a category, a stereotype, based on visual criteria such as skin color, height, and part of the body (breasts, hands, feet, hair, gender, etc.). Here, the human being is reduced to one of his traits: it is thus a form of reification that fuels the feeling of dehumanization and commodification on dating platforms.

Quitting apps to rehumanize online dating?

Inaction (“dating fatigue”) is undoubtedly the greatest evil plaguing the app world today. If these platforms seem to satisfy their users at the beginning of their activity, this feeling seems to diminish over time, which logically leads users to leave these platforms. 88% of our respondents said they have already uninstalled all of their dating apps. However, among them, only 31% did so because they met a suitable person. The remaining 69% left apps because of fatigue, their time-consuming nature, or after a bad experience. These numbers were not surprising, given that frustration with dating apps is an integral part of their “freemium” business model.

As an alternative, former users, especially young people, are increasingly turning to social networks like Instagram to meet people. On these platforms, exchanges are seen as more realistic, and therefore more human.

So we highlight the essential role that users have to play in helping to restore human dating online, but above all stress the responsibility of apps, which must deliver ethical design of the user experience if they want it to be sustainable. A movement is already underway between platforms to integrate security services and fight anti-social practices, but its business model still appears to limit its options.

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