We've heard countless voices on the meteoric rise of dating apps, and what they're doing to today's millennial singletons and beyond. But quite aside from the claims that dating apps encourage casual hook-ups - which is more likely a wider societal trend that has been emerging for years - perhaps it is the sincerity of swipe-based gamification that should be examined.
I'd argue that gamification is undermining dating apps themselves. The constant swiping fosters a culture of competitiveness - even with oneself - and instant gratification in the form of matches and messages. While Tinder created an incredible marketing machine, it does encourage people to "play".
The most important thing to sustain in online dating is sincerity. It's easy to hide behind a screen or to act in a way you wouldn't in real life. Which is why it's important that people using dating apps are sincere - because without meeting first, that's all you have to rely on.
That's why gamification in the form of countless swipes is cannibalising the dating app industry itself. The addictive format draws users who want to play rather than actually meet other people. No-one wants to have a tumble-weed desert of matches with empty profiles and empty messages. The success of the 'swipe right' motion is leading to its own downfall - singletons are frustrated by lacklustre users.
Meeting is the whole point - not whether or not you're after romance, friendship or anything else, but meeting people who you otherwise would have missed.
We should be encouraging genuine connections online. Making dating apps less of a game and more like real life is an important way to make dating apps what they should be - a tool to spark conversations and meetings that you couldn't or wouldn't have had before.
And like real life, we should encourage users to explore relationships beyond the romantic. Gamified online dating where you 'win' attention or affection sets up expectations. People who meet this way and find there is no romantic spark often just call it a day, having 'lost' at that particular opportunity. They often don't explore other connections they could have with that person.
Instead, we should meet first, then decide what our interaction is going to be as it happens. You can't tell until you meet someone in real life whether you will have a romantic connection, or just a great friendship, or even a good professional contact. Taking away those labels and will change a game into an opportunity.
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