It’s official: chatting people up in person is dead. Long live the tyranny of the dating app

·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

A lot of people posited that the end of lockdown would take us off dating apps. Starved of touch, we would reject virtual encounters and bounce back closer to each other than ever before. But several months on, no one seems to meet in person anymore. A few years ago we would reference that one couple who met on a dating app as evidence we could trust that suspicious, newfangled Tinder technology — now we mention the one couple we know who didn’t.

It’s a shame, because no one I know enjoys dating apps. We delete them and, a month later, fearing eternal celibacy, re-download them. A photograph of a person we would fancy in real life is rarely something we slide our thumb left-to-right over — it’s why we never show friends the social media of the guys we’re seeing without prefacing it with “he looks better in person”. In real life, something grips us — a glimmer behind the eyes only we can see. On apps we are reduced to 2D, shallow instincts about education level and height.

Apps work because they are a numbers game — go on enough dates and you will chance across chemistry. But no one mentions the fact they are an extra-curricular commitment, like being a school governor. Every date involves gambling 90 minutes of time you could be spending with mates — to get ready, navigate Citymapper — another 90 until he’s slugged his second drink and it is polite to leave. I once tried video calls as a filter before going on an actual date, but that just made it feel like the first round of a job application: “I had a lovely time meeting you — unfortunately, the standard of Hinge dates is extremely high, so I won’t be progressing this further”.

The fundamental problem is that the critical mass of people on dating apps has made it abnormal to pick up someone in person — and more than ever post-MeToo. I am not trying to blame men not fancying me on a worldwide reckoning for sexual harassment, but some guys are definitely nervous about being too forward.

It should be a happy feminist side-effect of this all that women compensate by hitting on men — but my instinct is to avoid the nauseous, chest-folding-inwards feeling you get when a guy you ask out says he has a girlfriend. Recently, though, I’ve reconsidered: it feels sexist to view being rebuffed as embarrassing when male friends tell me they view rejection as a statistical certainty (and that there’s nothing more attractive than a woman making the first move).

It would be helpful if dating apps had an outage the way WhatsApp and Facebook did this month, but for a year, so we’d be forced to normalise meeting in person. But in the meantime, I’ll be telling every woman I know to go forth — and chat that bloke up.

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Do you enjoy dating apps? Let us know in the comments below.

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