Why are dating apps so inhumane?

Today, despite a sulphurous reputation, applications are a reliable way to meet partners for many French people.

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

However, this type of platforms still arouses distrust for non-users, but also for users. The latter sometimes experience these applications as spaces of frustration and sometimes of suffering. Beyond the usual “love supermarket”, we propose to examine the reasons why dating applications can alienate or target their users.

An application design that exploits the desire of love

Whatever their concept (except for slow dating applications that deliberately offer some profiles in a qualitative logic) and their details, dating applications aim to speed up and speed up meetings. Like social networks, their basic economic stake is in acquiring, maintaining and monetizing their users. And like social networks, the business approach underlying these platforms has dire consequences.



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


Therefore, when registering, applications simplify access to their group of singles: usually all you need is a Facebook account or phone number, and an image available on the platform. Because users are not properly guided and advised, the quality of the profiles suffers.

According to the study we conducted as part of our book “Applications de Rencontre. Deciphering the neo-consumerism of love”, only 59% of male profiles offer a description and a third of them offer a description or biography of more than one sentence. The poor content of many profiles (or their artificial appearance) means that we pay little attention to them, that we do not take them seriously. As a result, the person behind the profile becomes less visible. It should be remembered that this phenomenon is not very important in traditional dating sites (where the registration fee requires a lot of profile development) and some applications that encourage users to answer a lot of questions to feed their profile.

Secret Algorithms

This first problem, however, has only a relative influence on the desire of users, who promised to meet many singles. One or two photos are enough to spark the desire to meet. Here, the need for applications to retain their subscribers can prove detrimental. No one knows how the different profile suggestion algorithms are designed, but if we rely on the user experience as told, we know that the applications distill the relevant drop profiles . This feeling leads to less involvement in the process PERSONAL DATElittle interest in each profile offered, and, thus, the proliferation of unhealthy, even antisocial behavior.

Finally, the need to monetize promising profiles has also contributed to making dating apps into failure-producing machines. For these platforms to reduce the natural performance of these users to encourage them to opt for paid options (to highlight their profile, to like an unlimited number of profiles or send an unsolicited message, etc.). This system allows dating applications to become one of the most useful in the world.

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The average user, who is attracted to applications for their apparent freedom, therefore finds himself unknowingly in a kind of purgatory where his experience can be deliberately disappointing, in contrast to the first promise platforms, plagued with self-esteem problems one might imagine. Thus we observed many users clinging to minimal contact and some developing aggressiveness.

A Fertile System of Antisocial Behavior

The design of dating apps, as well as the nature of cyberspace, promotes antisocial behavior and therefore tends to dehumanize online dating. We will discuss here some examples of speech that are related to us in the context of our study.

First of all, among the criteria for adopting dating applications, two aspects are often mentioned: joining the logic of homophilia or opening up new perspectives. If that seems contradictory, our research shows that these two approaches result in the same search behavior: hypercriterization.

According to our study, 73.8% of respondents consider themselves more selective in terms of criteria in applications than in offline life. This hypercriterization corresponds to a very clear tendency to focus a person’s attention on criteria that are designed as personal preferences but often originate from the system of applications such as age, height, color of skin, hair, occupation, level of study, religion, quality of spelling, etc. .

This hypercriterization often goes hand in hand with hyperselectivity. A user may consider the smallest element of a profile to be off-putting and thereby disqualify any non-compliant profile, at any time. This phenomenon, if it seems bad or legitimate, tends to empty the meeting process of its meaning, to make it more artificial and to build the famous atmosphere of “ready-to-drop” rejected by applications. Paradoxically, hypercriterization and hyperselectivity are the flip side of the coin in many profiles.

Violence in ghosting

Because of this, the ghosting establishes itself as an act of violence that is normalized and internalized by users. This term from the English “ghost” (ghost) refers to the fact of not giving news to a person in a sudden and definite way, for no apparent reason. According to our study, 53% of men and 80% of women admit that they have done it in their period PERSONAL DATE. It is interesting to note that the ghosting also practiced after a “real” meeting after exchanges on dating applications. So this is not just an application design issue; the wealth system they built also changed human interactions outside the virtual world. Several elements favor this practice of applications: the cyclical consumption of platforms (users subscribe and unsubscribe according to their romantic situation), the incentive to flirt with many people at the same time , the decontextualization of meetings (that is to say, no. social context consolidates the link established between two people), the bad perception – paradoxical – that we have of other users of these platforms (it is the case of 54 % of the respondents in our study), the fact of being a constant victim of ghosting and of wanting to “return the favor”.

The issue of hypercriterization also shows more serious cases, for example fetishization, especially among minorities. Many testimonials as well as the work of the French researcher Marc Jahjah highlight this event in applications. In this case, fetishization consists of no longer considering your interlocutor as an individual in their own right, but assimilating them into a category, a stereotype, based on visible criteria such as skin color, height, part of their body (chest, hands, feet, hair, sex, etc.). Here, the person is therefore reduced to one of their characteristics: therefore it is a form of objectification that contributes to the feeling of dehumanization and commodification in dating platforms.

Abandoning apps to re-humanize online dating?

Fatigue (“dating fatigue”) is undoubtedly the greatest evil plaguing the world of applications today. If these platforms seem to satisfy their users at the beginning of their activity, this feeling seems to decrease over time, which logically leads users to leave these platforms. 88% of our respondents said they have uninstalled all their dating apps. However, among them, only 31% did it because they met a suitable person. The remaining 69% left the applications due to fatigue, because they wasted time or following a bad experience. These numbers are not surprising, since the disillusionment with dating applications is an important part of their “freemium” business model.

As an alternative, ex-users, especially young people, are increasingly turning to social networks like Instagram to meet people. On these platforms, exchanges are considered more authentic, and therefore, more human.

We therefore emphasize the important role that users must play in helping to rehumanize online dating, but above all underline the responsibility of applications, which must provide an ethical user experience design if they want to to be sustainable. A movement has already taken place among platforms to integrate security devices and to fight against anti-social acts, but their business model still seems to limit their options.

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