Not so long ago, a tweet went viral narrating a certain gentleman’s experience in taking part in a prank that brought hundreds of men to Union Square in New York City and pitted them against each other in a Hunger Games-style competition for the attention of their Tinder match. While the mastermind of the prank, 22-year-old New Yorker Natasha Aponte, received a lot of backlash for the stunt, the social experiment perfectly showcased the superficiality of the choices we make in online dating and sparked conversations on how we should be treating each other on dating apps and websites.
I have been on various dating apps like Tinder and Bumble for nearly five years now, swiping right and left the way I would browse for shoes online. While my interactions with men have been mostly pleasant, my recent experiences can confirm that online dating has changed the norm—and not in a good way.
I met an Australian guy on Bumble who I spent weeks getting to know and having great conversations with. Just when I thought we had a genuine connection, he tells me that all he really wanted was to hook up.
The dating apocalypse has arrived, welcome to hookup culture. With so many options literally at the tip of your finger, who has time to date? You’ll be surprised at the number of times immediately after matching with someone that I’ve been invited over to hookup. I often ponder on the amount of people who accept similar propositions for it to be a normal thing to say to a stranger. “Don’t you want to get to know me first?” I ask, a question that’s usually responded to with a swift unmatch or a brief, “What for?”
Then again, investing time in getting to a person isn’t any better if the end game is the same. Dating apps have made people more open and direct about their desire for casual sex—at least people are having these conversations, right?
Part of online dating’s supposed appeal is the anonymity that dating outside your circle offers. Unfortunately, it is also what encourages people to behave badly towards people they’ve met through the apps. The influx of dating apps gave rise behaviors such as “ghosting,” a term for when someone suddenly ends a relationship without explanation by withdrawing from all communication.
A Dutch guy I met on Tinder planned this elaborate date with me and on the day of the date just decided to not show up. When I tried to check in, I learned that he’d blocked me from all messaging apps we were communicating on. Many people would say and do things they wouldn’t be able to in real life because they know they will never be held accountable for it, especially when you have no ties to each other. It’s for this same reason that dick picks are popping up everywhere because for as long as men can’t prove it’s theirs, they could be sent brazenly.
Perhaps the most insidious change brought about by online dating is the potential increase in incidences of sexual harassment.
I once went out on a date with this Italian guy I met on Bumble who, as soon as we were alone, groped me and asked me to choose between performing oral sex on him or letting him perform oral sex on me. Sure, I flirted with him, met him for a date, and even let him pay for dinner. Were all these enough for him to assume that I was going to sleep with him? That he was entitled to my body?
Part of me blamed myself—we had met on Bumble after all. Yet, I am also reminded by that seemingly assaultive experience that consent in any encounter or relationship must be given every step of the way.
On dating apps, many perceive to be used for sex, your mere presence comes with expectations and presumptions that you are there for that reason alone. This entitlement and notion of assumed consent on Tinder and Bumble can be extremely dangerous and problematic in real life.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely against dating apps and online dating. In fact, I enjoy reading and hearing about the numerous Tinder and Bumble success stories out there. However, I do think we need to start thinking hard about how dating apps and online dating are changing the way we relate to each other and how these are transforming dating culture altogether. We need to become more accountable and consider the consequences of the things we say or do to people we meet on the apps. After all, they are real people and not just stacks of cards you’re swiping on.
Until then, I am kissing online dating goodbye.