Dating Game App(tly) Played

Today, it is easy to be with someone without a relationship. The dating apps are almost like a television remote where you can change channels whenever you want. Despite this, the dating scene seems to have become an apocalypse in the waiting as gleaned from the article titled “Tinder and the dating apocalypse” published in Vanity Fair.

What women want?

“Since the emergence of flappers and “moderns” in the 1920s, the debate about what is lost and gained for women in casual sex has been raging, and is raging still—particularly among women. Some, like Atlantic writer Hanna Rosin, see hookup culture as a boon: “The hookup culture is … bound up with everything that’s fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence.” But others lament the way the extreme casualness of sex in the age of Tinder leaves many women feeling de-valued. “It’s rare for a woman of our generation to meet a man who treats her like a priority instead of an option,” wrote Erica Gordon on the Gen Y Web site Elite Daily, in 2014.”
I have always believed that despite all the new age feminism, most women are emotional beings for whom physical intimacy is a result of an emotional and mental connection with their partners. Many of them still believe in waiting for someone who will connect with them not just on the physical level but also on an emotional level. However, the exodus of men to the dating apps seem to have reduced the possibility of developing an emotional bond which has resulted in short lived marriages, increased divorces and more extra marital affairs.

“It is the very abundance of options provided by online dating which may be making men less inclined to treat any particular woman as a “priority,” according to David Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in the evolution of human sexuality. “Apps like Tinder and OkCupid give people the impression that there are thousands or millions of potential mates out there,” Buss says. “One dimension of this is the impact it has on men’s psychology. When there is a surplus of women, or a perceived surplus of women, the whole mating system tends to shift towards short-term dating. Marriages become unstable. Divorces increase. Men don’t have to commit, so they pursue a short-term mating strategy. Men are making that shift, and women are forced to go along with it in order to mate at all.”
The obvious change in men’s mentality has also caused many women to reprogram their own value system. After all, what’s the point of running after something which does not even exist? In this case, it is romance and fidelity!
“I think that iPhones and dating apps have really changed the way that dating happens for our generation,” says Stephanie, the one with an arm full of bracelets.
“There is no dating. There’s no relationships,” says Amanda, the tall elegant one. “They’re rare. You can have a fling that could last like seven, eight months and you could never actually call someone your ‘boyfriend.’ [Hooking up] is a lot easier. No one gets hurt—well, not on the surface.”They give a wary laugh.
They say they think their own anxiety about intimacy comes from having “grown up on social media,” so “we don’t know how to talk to each other face-to-face.” “You form your first impression based off Facebook rather than forming a connection with someone.”

‘The I don’t care” line
With most men on dating apps to have a good time, women don’t have an option but to follow them. However, subduing their natural emotional instinct and putting on a ‘I don’t care” face is also a daunting prospect for many.
When it comes to hooking up, they say, it’s not as simple as just having sex. “It’s such a game, and you have to always be doing everything right, and if not, you risk losing whoever you’re hooking up with,” says Fallon, the soft-spoken one. By “doing everything right” she means “texting back too soon; never double texting; liking the right amount of his stuff,” on social media.
“And it reaches a point,” says Jane, “where, if you receive a text message” from a guy, “you forward the message to, like, seven different people: ‘What do I say back? Oh my God, he just texted me!’ It becomes a surprise. ‘He texted me!’ Which is really sad.”
“If he texts you before midnight he actually likes you as a person. If it’s after midnight, it’s just for your body,” says Amanda. It’s not, she says, that women don’t want to have sex. “Who doesn’t want to have sex? But it feels bad when they’re like, ‘See ya.’ ”
“It seems like the girls don’t have any control over the situation, and it should not be like that at all,” Fallon says.
“It’s a contest to see who cares less, and guys win a lot at caring less,” Amanda says.”

Double Standards Kill Self Esteem
So, does that mean that for men, nothing matters more than physical intimacy? Does it also imply that having emotions is a sign of weakness when it comes to women? Have the women just been reduced to pieces of meat or it is the new age feminism which believes women are equal to men in all respects including meaningless physical encounters?
“Sex should stem from emotional intimacy, and it’s the opposite with us right now, and I think it really is kind of destroying females’ self-images,” says Fallon.
“It’s body first, personality second,” says Stephanie.
“Honestly, I feel like the body doesn’t even matter to them as long as you’re willing,” says Reese. “It’s that bad.”
“But if you say any of this out loud, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism,” says Amanda.”
But does that mean these dating apps have helped in liberating women from the pre conceived age old notions of how women should behave even in the western world?
I ask if they’re aware of the double standard that’s often applied to women when it comes to physical intimacy. “The double standard is real,” Nick says. “If I’m a guy and I’m going out with a different girl every night, my friends are gonna give me high-fives and we’re gonna crack a beer and talk about it. Girls do the same, but they get judged. I don’t want it to be like that, but sometimes the world is the way it is and I can’t change it, so I just embrace it.”

All fun no relationships

Life for women may not still be easy but the dating apps have made life easier for men because they no longer have to have a relationship to satisfy their physical desires.

“They all say they don’t want to be in relationships. “I don’t want one,” says Nick. “I don’t want to have to deal with all that—stuff.”
“You can’t be selfish in a relationship,” Brian says. “It feels good just to do what I want.”
I ask them if it ever feels like they lack a deeper connection with someone.
There’s a small silence. After a moment, John says, “I think at some points it does.”
“But that’s assuming that that’s something that I want, which I don’t,” Nick says, a trifle annoyed. “Does that mean that my life is lacking something? I’m perfectly happy. I have a good time. I go to work—I’m busy. And when I’m not, I go out with my friends.”
“Or you meet someone on Tinder,” offers John.
“Exactly,” Nick says. “Tinder is fast and easy, boom-boom-boom, swipe.”

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Earlier, once committed, people had to contend themselves with their partners. The more adventurous ones probably had a fling or two on the site. However, these days, the dating apps have been able to make both men and women believe that they can always find someone better, smarter and sexier when it comes to the opposite sex. Naturally, today’s generation doesn’t want to miss that chance. In that sense, it increases the fear of missing out.

“They play the game the exact same way. They have a bunch of people going at the same time—they’re fielding their options. They’re always looking for somebody better, who has a better job or more money.” A few young women admitted to me that they use dating apps as a way to get free meals. “I call it Tinder food stamps,” one said.”
But does that mean that both men and women will no longer be satisfied with whatever they have? Will they lose the bird in hand for the two in the bush?
“According to Christopher Ryan, one of the co-authors of Sex at Dawn (2010), human beings are not sexually monogamous by nature. The book contends that, for much of human history, men and women have taken multiple sex partners as a commonly accepted (and evolutionarily beneficial) practice. The thesis, controversial and widely criticized by anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, didn’t keep the book from being an international best-seller; it seemed to be something people were ready to hear.”
Though this article was about the dating scene in America, where people are considered more sexually liberated than India, it seems to be holding true in in India as well. Divorces, casual encounters, extra marital and no strings attached relationships are on a rise. More and more men and women are adapting the ‘bed and forget’ culture which allows them to ‘hook up’ with as many number of people as they like. Though many would say this is the new age liberalism but is it really? Is this a signal of better days or the end of trust, commitment and integrity which were an fundamental part of a beautiful relationship between two people?

This article by Shailaza Singh was published in Rashtradoot’s Arbit section on 6 September 2021


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