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I don’t believe hookup culture has infected our brains and turned us into soulless sex-hungry swipe monsters. It doesn’t do to pretend that dating in the app era hasn’t changed. Tinder arrived in 2012, and nipping at its heels came other imitators and twists on the format, like Hinge (connects you with friends of friends), Bumble (women have to message first), and others.Older online dating sites like OKCupid now have apps as well.Each person felt like a real possibility, rather than an abstraction.The first Tinder date I ever went on, in 2014, became a six-month relationship. In late 2014 and early 2015, I went on a handful of decent dates, some that led to more dates, some that didn’t—which is about what I feel it’s reasonable to expect from dating services.When the apps were new, people were excited, and actively using them.Swiping “yes” on someone didn’t inspire the same excited queasiness that asking someone out in person does, but there was a fraction of that feeling when a match or a message popped up.
Larry Lawal, a 27-year-old straight male software developer in Atlanta, says he used to meet up with women from the apps for dinner or drinks several times a month, but now, “I don’t know, something happened [since] the earlier days,” he says.“So it’s almost like the only recourse other than just sort of sitting around waiting for luck to strike is dating apps.”But then, if you get tired of the apps, or have a bad experience on them, it creates this ambivalence—should you stop doing this thing that makes you unhappy or keep trying in the hopes it might yield something someday?This tension may lead to people walking a middle path—lingering on the apps while not actively using them much.“The process of dating inherently sucks,” says Holly Wood, a Ph D candidate at Harvard University who’s doing her dissertation on modern dating.“I literally am trying to call my dissertation ‘Why Dating Sucks,’ because I want to explain that.