Why Dating Apps Make You Feel Bad

And some possible ways to make it a little better

Jacky Tang

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Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Most of us want to fall in love. If there was such a thing as a universal desire, other than, you know, staying alive, it would be love. But the dating experience has started to shift very dramatically in the last little while. Meeting a partner used to be through social spaces like school or work, or through social connections like friends and family. Nowadays, a lot of dating has moved online for better or worse. For anyone who’s used online dating apps, I think we can all agree it’s generally for the worst. But why is this exactly?

Quantity Over Quality

The first reason is purely due to the numbers. When we met people through physical spaces like on university campus or at church, the number of people you could meet was fairly small. There would maybe be a couple of hundred of people at most, and not all of those people would be possible romantic connections. They would more likely fit other roles like friends, acquaintances, or mentors and other roles. This fits well with evolutionary evidence that our brains are evolved to handle about 150 people within our social group. When groups outgrow this limit, they start to feel more anonymous and less like someone you know.

Greater numbers are a drawback more so than a positive. It might seem like more exposure means greater chances, but that’s not so. First off, more choice means more choice paralysis. Ever go into a restaurant with 50 options and not know what to choose? Imagine there were 1,000s instead. If the menu had 10 solid options, it can be much easier. Secondly, the range of choices is so wide it only serves to dilute the good ones. Imagine opening a delivery app and you have to swipe through one menu item at a time, from every menu, from every restaurant, trying to find the dish you want. It’s a terrible idea. You just want to order Vietnamese food when you keep getting presented with Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Mediterranean, and everything else all the time.

The nature of the relationships would be different too. You would meet every day or every week, and gradually get to know one another. I remember having crushes on friends within our established social groups, and the feelings I had for them would only…

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Jacky Tang

A software-psychology guy breaking down the way we think as individuals and collectives