'Dating' apps are ruining America

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Two teenage boys plop down on a bench aboard a Manhattan-bound train and trade stories about girls. It’s just another Saturday in New York. But these stories are strange—the dudes aren’t talking about classmates or friends, they’re talking about girls they’ve never met. Girls whose photos they swipe through like a deck of trading cards.

America, we need to talk about dating apps. They are ruining everything.

In the beginning, the appeal was obvious. There was the novelty: You can see a bunch of attractive people who are in your immediate vicinity! There was the ease of use: You can talk to hotties without having to pay any money or set up a profile! You don’t even have to move!

But things are getting out of hand.

The apps are getting creepier. People are getting more callous. We are tapping and swiping our way into a dystopian future where smartphones are the only partners we have.

Don't hate the player, hate the app

Bang With Friends recently changed its name to Down, after Zynga sued the app into ditching the name’s play on “Words With Friends.” Down is a more subtle name (I guess), but the app’s intentions remain the same: Rate the hotness of your Facebook friends, get matched with people who are of similar hotness, and message them if you want to get down. The app uses an algorithm to figure out what level of attractiveness you and your potential partners reach.

So much for hitting on a girl at a bar.

When the company changed its name last month, it sent out an announcement: “We chose [the name] Down to represent the simple, natural way that our generation dates, without alienating people who may not want an app that says ‘bang’ but are totally down otherwise.”

The new version of the app, currently in beta for Android, lets you choose if you want to “get down” or “get date,” which adds more nuance than the app used to have.

Bang With Friends/Down is by far the most brazen “dating” app on the market, but others have similar features: letting people rate each other’s looks and trade messages to conceivably make plans to meet up later. Some are a little more under the radar—emphasizing flirty communiques and cute selfies—while others are straight-up all about the booty. An app called Pure embraces its purpose with the tagline: “The right way to get a date. On-demand.” Pure even has a Snapchat element, where your chat history and any photos you send to your potential hookup are erased within an hour.

Cofounder Roman Sidorenko told New York magazine when the app launched in August that Pure takes an approach like Uber’s to hooking up, “where you basically create the request, and you get a car pretty soon. We thought it would be cool to have something like that to find a sex buddy.”

Are we at the point where has dating become as soulless as hailing a car or ordering takeout from Seamless? Shouldn’t finding a date, or even just a hookup partner, have more human interaction?

Millennials just want to have fun

There’s nothing wrong with just looking to get down with a cute dude or attractive lady, but at their worst, these apps suck all the fun out of meeting, flirting, and dating (if that’s what you’re after). Tinder’s founders told TechHive in June that their app mimics the way the real world works, as when you see an attractive stranger at a bar and decide to strike up a conversation.

“The first thing you notice about someone is their physical appearance,” said cofounder Justin Mateen. “Once you start engaging with them, you look for commonalities like mutual friends or mutual interests, which both help establish trust.”

But are you really looking to connect with someone who has mutual friends and interests when you open an app to swipe through photos of hot people? You might not be looking to connect with someone on a deeper level in real life, either, but at least you have to put some effort into it.

Tinder is another dating app that lets you swipe through photos to find your hottest nearby match.

Hookup apps reduce people to profile pics, and the act of going out to meet someone is negated by the app’s handy geolocator. At least desktop-based dating sites require some work—a filled-out questionnaire, maybe a membership or some cash up front—but those services are targeting a different type of person, a person who wants a deeper commitment and is willing to pay for it. What if you just want to have fun?

Well, part of the fun is the chase. If you get your dates on demand, like ordering takeout from Seamless, it takes some of the thrill out of life. There’s no suspense. The apps just find people in your area who are also down to get down. It’s an android solution to a human desire.

Or, as my editor described it: “That’s how stray cats hook up. We should be able to aim a little higher.”

The Dating Ring requires more physical effort—an application and in-person meeting—but then they set you up with a match.

The backlash begins

The backlash has already begun. For every Bang With Frien—oops, I mean the app formerly known as Bang With Friends—and Tinder, startups like The Dating Ring and Catalyst are lined up to take their place with more emphasis on personality and real-life connections. And they’re less tacky.

Then there are apps like Hula; Hula recognizes that people are going to do whatever their little loins desire and helps them to do so in a healthier manner (by encouraging regular STD tests).

The scourge of hookup apps is perhaps overblown. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 7 percent of smartphone users—only 3 percent of all American adults—have ever used a dating app. So maybe there’s hope for you yet, America.

This story, "'Dating' apps are ruining America" was originally published by TechHive.

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