Some people say that dating apps are making men FLAKY, SLEAZY, and SELFISH . . . and that dating apps are the solution.
“MAKE AMERICA LOVE AGAIN,” the ad blared through my news feed over black-and-white photographs of pre-Pill couples courting at the sock hop. A few taps later, the website for tech start-up Eve informed me with only a hint of irony: “Modern dating is in crisis. We thought there should be an app for that.”
It’s been five years since Tinder disrupted the dating game, allowing millennials to summon potential partners like taxis and Chinese takeout. Then came the backlash. Think pieces decried a wasteland of empty promises and one-night stands. One article blamed Tinder for the “dating apocalypse,” prompting an infamous Twitter tantrum from the brand. Books like Aziz Ansari’s Modern Love wrestled with our hookup-happy culture’s “paradox of choice.” Stock prices wavered. Mobile dating was in need of a PR makeover.
According to the doomsayers, men are swiping right with abandon, “ghosting,” and dodging commitment. (Millennial-to-English translation: They’re coming on to too many women, disappearing after two dates, and generally behaving like they have a whole sea of fish waiting in their pocket—which, of course, they do.) So who can save singles from the calamity the tech bros have wrought? “Us,” say the tech bros.
And so a crop of new app features have emerged. “Men have been taught to peacock and get our attention, especially in online communities that create this sense of urgency and aggression,” says a representative from Bumble, a spin-off from one of Tinder’s cofounders that nixes creepy pickup lines by letting women make the first move. (Bumble has introduced a watermark feature to its photosharing function, in the hope that plastering users’ names across every snapshot will give them pause before they send that unsolicited dick pic.) Apps like Hinge—which makes matches via mutual friends— and Tinder also launched campaigns to rebrand themselves as relationship-focused services rather than friction-free hookup tools. Eve, which launched this past spring, introduced a system that rates men on how they use the app. For every swipe right, men lose points for being less selective—encouraging them to narrow their criteria from “any female with a pulse” to “women I’m really interested in.”
Eve cofounder Hank Dumanian is well aware that guys may bristle at the idea of being scored by an algorithm (and indeed, all the men I spoke with felt at least a little uncomfortable with the double standard). But Dumanian insists he’s doing them a favor. The problem with dating apps, as he sees it, is that they “treat male and female users as functional equivalents.” The reality is that men not only far outnumber women (some apps have a male-female ratio as high as 70 to 30) but also behave entirely differently. The average man will swipe right on nearly half the women he sees. (A secondary, auto-right-swipe app market has even sprung up to mitigate the risks of carpal tunnel.) By comparison, the average female user swipes right only 14 percent of the time.
As a woman, I find Eve a little intimidating. What are the odds a 9.2 will use one of his precious swipes on me? But I spoke with others who were excited by the idea of an app that pushes men to, as one woman put it, finally “swipe with intention.”
So if it’s an all-you-can-lay buffet you’re looking for, keep Tinder on your home screen. But if—bless your heart—you’re holding out for The One? Then step away from the slot machine and try a game that involves a little strategy; the jackpot’s bound to be bigger. —Julia Black
“Send nudes” is not a bio.