How Dating Apps Are Designed To Keep You Single

By J.S. von Dacre

I recently met a friend, whom I had not seen for some time. Within minutes of our respective drinks being placed in front of us, my singleton friend started telling me about the pitfalls of dating apps and how, despite going on a few dates weekly, she continued to be unsuccessful at dating.

She also faced another dilemma; at forty, she was desperate to get married and start a family. With the clock seemingly ticking, she insisted that she needed to acquire as many dates as possible with the premise of finding “the one”–before it was too late.

I have a number of friends–men and women–who use these dating apps religiously. And here is the interesting thing that I have noticed on both sides. A lot of the people I know who use these apps essentially say that they are looking for a long-term relationship.

One of the pitfalls of dating apps is that people are, often, little more than “girl number twenty” or “guy number thirty” whom anyone could be speaking with, at any given time.

Yet, the daunting reality is that dating apps have now become indoctrinated as part of a staple diet for busy professionals across the globe. The twenty-first century has changed what it means to find a lasting romance.

Despite genuinely thinking that they want to find love, my guy friends, who use these apps, often maintain the same recipe. They speak to numerous girls every week, and within the very first few sentences, endeavour to get her telephone number to get her off the app, or just quickly try to secure a meeting. By the laws of probability, if they were to send a similar message to several girls within that week, they will eventually find one or two girls who will agree to meet them after exchanging just a few sentences.

Frequently, a girl will sleep with him on the first or second date. He will then continue to see the girl a few more times. More often than not, he will lose interest within a short period of time and resort back to the app–still hoping that he will eventually find “the one”. And the cycle may continue to repeat itself for months and possibly, years.


Have women changed the dating game? 

Similarly, many of my girl friends have found themselves unsuccessful at dating with these apps. A lot of them too, are looking for love. Yet, the girl may also fall into the norm of going home with the guy at date one or two, until eventually, both parties fall off the radar due to the ultimate lack of interest, commitment, or investment.

Traditionally speaking, men used to have to work far harder to get sex. Even the players had to effectively spend more time speaking to women to get their numbers. Now, a platform exists where there can be little effort and barely a sentence exchanged before a woman might agree to have sex.

One can argue that women are rightly more sexually liberated–but this is not something new or special. The sexual revolution happened in the 60s. And even then, men had to satisfactorily speak to a woman, to a certain extent, for the deal to be sealed.

For the women who prefer these rapid-fire scenarios, this works well. But there are also a lot of women who do it (because women need sex too), despite wanting something more meaningful in the long run. It becomes a slippery slope when, before long, they have had lots of dates and sex, and still feel miles away from finding the love that they seek.

And for the women who are not into these casual flings, it becomes even more of a warzone to use these apps–but what can she do since this is the most popular dating choice for millennials?



One of the major pitfalls of these dating apps is a behaviour referred to as “ghosting”.  After what might appear to be a “real” connection, the other person just suddenly vanishes. It might even occur if both parties simply exchanged a barrage of daily texts, over a period of time, but never yet had the chance to meet in real life.

“Ghosting isn’t new—people have long done disappearing acts—but years ago this kind of behaviour was considered limited to a certain type of scoundrel,” explains Dr. Jennice Vilhauer.

She goes on to further say, “The lack of social connections to people who are met online also means there are less social consequences to dropping out of someone’s life. The more it happens, either to themselves or their friends, the more people become desensitized to it and the more likely they are to do it to someone else.”


Paradox of choice

The “paradox of choice” has further exacerbated being unsuccessful at dating. It is the scenario of going to a bakery, being faced with a wide variety of treats, and not quite knowing which delicacy to select. With too many options, one choice is rarely good enough.

Despite a date going well enough to consider seeing him or her again, there is also the awareness that other dates are readily available on the app. So subsequently, the user will still go back on the app and keep looking for other people. I have known of numerous people who immediately start swiping on their way home after departing from a date that went really well.

In his book, Barry Schwartz refers to them as “maximizers” and explains:

“Maximizers treat relationships like clothing. I expect to try a lot on before finding the perfect fit. For a maximizer, somewhere out there is the perfect lover, the perfect friends. Even though there is nothing wrong with the current relationship, who knows what’s possible if you keep your eyes open.”

His theory was further explored in an experiment conducted by Columbia University professors. A grocery store was set up with six jam samples on one table, and twenty-four jam samples on another table. It was discovered that even though twenty percent more customers were drawn to the larger display of choices, only three percent of the shoppers actually bought any jam. Yet, with the table that had just six samples, thirty percent of shoppers made a purchase.

The researchers concluded that while “an extensive array of options can, at first, seem highly appealing to consumers,” it actually tends to decrease their subsequent desire to want to get that item.

This is not simply a predicament of millennials, but also one that will grossly impact upon future generations.

Imagine this: when you grew up, you learnt about romance based on crushes, people around you, and the movies. The current generation of youngsters will learn about romance via these new dating platforms and etiquette–and they will normalise being “girl number twenty” or “guy number thirty”. Are traditional values of love and romances essentially becoming obsolete and superfluous?

Not necessarily. It is important to remember that these “quick-fix” dating outlets have only existed for about a decade. Before this, people met each other in everyday circumstances. So there is nothing stopping you from going out and interacting with people in a normal way, forging more meaningful real-life encounters and connections.


To swipe or not to swipe?

One of the major pitfalls of dating apps is that they often serve to keep you single. Think about it: if everyone suddenly found the perfect partner, then all these apps will suddenly be out of business. In many ways, they are designed to keep you being unsuccessful at dating. You are gluttonously fed with the “paradox of choice” and before you know it, you are addicted to using these platforms–and not even realise it. That ultimate quest for finding “the one” suddenly morphs into finding “no one”.

Swiping right or left generally leads to an insufficient return on your investment–even if you are primarily looking for something casual.

It might be more prudent to invest your time in doing something you truly enjoy–perhaps that gallery, gig, or event you that took your fancy. The more you go about doing things you like, the more you increase your chances of meeting your type of person. And even if you did not, you would still be spending your time and investment by doing something you genuinely like.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with being single for a while. Nor should milestones or timeframes be set for achieving specific relationship goals. So what if you are forty, or a single parent? Such ideas only serve to be self-limiting.  If you are not comfortable with being single–which means taking pleasure in being with yourself and loving yourself–how can you be happy being with anyone else?

Normal dating is not always smooth sailing, and when you add to the equation the functionality of these dating apps, you become more open to repeated and regular rejections. Such experiences often lead people to feel cynical or disenchanted about finding romance.

Don’t feel desperate–because you are not. Being single is far less stressful than being with the wrong person (whether short-term or long-term). Simply, you need to enjoy being you–irrespective of if there is someone there not. Start by learning to love yourself more, being kinder to yourself, and knowing your value. And have no doubts that you are worth so much more than simply being someone’s “girl number twenty” or “guy number thirty”.


ABOUT THE WRITER: J.S. von Dacre is a writer/journalist, advocate, and wanderluster. To find out more about her work, go to



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