The article “Love in the Time of Tech,” by Zachary Siegel for The Daily Beast, is a really intriguing read on what happens to our brains when we are using dating apps such as Tinder. Siegel writes, “We create online profiles, curating our favorite traits and launching ‘ideal selves’ out into an infinite sea of potentiality that has become the online dating pool.”
He notes some really interesting findings, especially those of Natasha Dow Schüll, a cultural anthropologist at NYU. In Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, Schüll explores how technology — slot machines, for instance — can potentially trap us in an addictive system of rewards. Schüll says there are indeed parallels between slots and gamified dating apps like Tinder. So let me dig into some of this information and offer a bit of advice for using online dating apps and some truths that need to be realized about them.
First of all, don’t believe everything you read or see in online profiles on a dating app or site. If all people presented themselves as they are, the discrepancy between the online dating profile and the person in real life would never exist. But if you ask any online dater, that discrepancy is real. If someone puts up better pictures, changes their details slightly or shows themselves in a way that enhances themselves on paper, can you imagine the real-life response when the other dater notices those differences? Usually, the reaction is negative — unless you undersell and overdeliver! But if you’re lucky enough to look better in person than in your photos, that is an advantage in real life.
If dating apps are addictive and we swipe left and right to stimulate a reward system in our brains, how do we answer the question of what happens when people meet in person? This fun and addicting game of online dating might give instant gratification on the app or on the dating site, but let’s get real here: The in-person encounter is what counts the most.
The app is the avenue by which the people get to meet, so it is valuable in this case for connecting daters. The challenge is that virtual dating on an app does not always translate to success in meeting or even in creating relationships. For a couple to actually form a long-lasting and healthy relationship, the chemistry is about the in-person meeting and the connection that may or may not live up to its zealous on-paper profile.
Keeping realistic expectations might help to soften the fall if a dater can remind themselves that what looks good on paper does not always translate to a meeting at your local coffee shop. It is also important to remember that safety is key when meeting a stranger. You do not know this person, so take appropriate steps to ensure a public spot is used in getting to know someone new.
But remember, the opposite effect could come into play as well: If you are only swiping right due to physical attraction, you are missing out. There’s more to a person than their photo or stats. Don’t forget about the magic of chemistry in person, which just might make someone look better than their photos.
Online dating and apps are here to stay — with both negatives and benefits for daters. Let’s try and use these in a thoughtful manner to create long-lasting relationships!