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Exploring the good, the bad, and the eww of dating apps

Artem Beliaikin
Flickr Creative Commons

If you want to date these days, you pretty much haveto use dating apps and sites. You can go to brick and mortar locations (bars, nightclubs, etc.), but there's an ease and efficiency of meeting people over the internet.

Finding people to connect with online isn’t hard. Finding the right people to connect with is the battle when it comes to dating in the 21st century. For every one person who finds love on a dating app/site (full disclosure: I met my wife on Plenty of Fish), there seems to be a lot more people who find anything but love.

I asked a group of Ohio-based women (strangely, no men responded to my requests to participate in this article) about their experiences using dating apps. I also interviewed a social science expert. The main dating apps (or, applications) the majority of these women used and continue to use are Plenty of Fish, Tinder, and Facebook Dating. The questions I asked them were:

  1. What dating apps/sites do you use?
  2. Which ones have you been successful with (actually meeting people)?
  3. Which ones have you NOT had success with?

The answers were…interesting. Here they are.

Erin Naylor, 47, (lives in) Indianapolis, Indiana:

"I am currently on Tinder and FB (Facebook) Dating. In the past, I’ve been on POF (Plenty of Fish).

I’ve had ‘success’ in the sense that I’ve matched, talked to, and gone on dates. But I don’t know that I would consider it a success. I met my ex boyfriend on Tinder. We were on and off for 4 years. It was a dumpster fire. Everyone else that I’ve talked to or dated doesn’t materialize. I’m on a Facebook group called “Are We Dating The Same Guy?” It’s for women to post pics of men they’ve matched with on sites to see if there’s any tea or red flags. Overwhelmingly people post about that negative experience on dating sites. The men that are posted are already in relationships and are on dating sites, too. Or they’re talking to multiple women, telling them all that they are the only ones. There’s married men posted frequently too.

The consensus from everyone I know is that dating is horrible and the dating sites make things worse.”

Liza Faith, 51, Miamisburg, Ohio: 

"I use Bumble, Tinder, and Facebook Dating. I have used Match.com, BlackPeopleMeet.com and Plenty of Fish.

I have met people from Bumble, Facebook, dating and Tinder.

I have not had success with Plenty of Fish, BlackPeopleMeet.com and Match.com."

Erin Myers, 41, Columbus, Ohio:

"Facebook Dating [is] where I met [my partner] Kei and the last two people I dated prior, POF, and Tinder and eHarmony."

Samantha Ortiz, 40-ish, Columbus, Ohio:

"[I have used] Facebook dating, POF. POF is horrible.”

Ashley Higinbotham, 42, Lordstown, Ohio:

“I have used FB Dating, and POF. [I've] only [had] success on FB Dating, I have a date coming up. [There's] nothing good on POF.”

Zontaye Richardson, 38, Dayton, Ohio: 

"[I have used] Facebook Dating and Hinge. I have been on one date with someone from Facebook Dating. It is hit or miss with any of them.”

Bobbi, 49, Fairborn, Ohio: 

“I’m currently using FB Dating. I’ve had somewhat better meetings on FB. Plenty of Fish is horrible and mostly a hook up place if you ask me. Oh, you can meet up but it’s not for a relationship (laughs)!”

Jackie, 54, Riverside, Ohio:

I no longer use POF at all. Nothing good ever worked out there, but I did make a good friend.

My favorite is Facebook Dating, you can see mutual friends. And I have had several dates and meetings.”

Kat King,  20’s, Dayton, Ohio:

"I have used Tinder, Hinge, Facebook Dating and Bumble.

I have met individuals off each app. Facebook Dating and Bumble honestly have been my favorite. I have found many people with substance on both. Conversations have been the best to me on those apps because I think they’ve had the best options for me and what I’m looking for.

I have not had much success with Hinge. I don't feel like Hinge gives enough coverage for the profile. It doesn’t give space for a bio but rather you choose 3-4 prompts and I don’t feel like that’s enough to give you an idea who people are. Facebook Dating, although one of my favs , it’s also one of my least favs because although I’ve had some of my best connections on there, the ratio of good connections to those I am completely uninterested in is 1 to 75. it feels lol it’s “easy” to make a profile on there so anyone with a Facebook (profile) could easily make one just because compared to someone who actually goes through the process of downloading a different app, making a whole profile etc.”

I have not used Tinder in a long time. Although I do not believe everyone on that app is looking for hookups… I believe that’s what a majority are on there for.. nothing wrong with that.. just didn’t match what I was looking for (for the most part) so I didn’t feel like that one was worth my time and energy.”

Asking an Expert

I wanted to speak to someone who, for a lack of a better description, knows people. A dating expert, or a sociologist. I found and talked with the latter, Katherine R. Rowell, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology and the Honors Program Advisor at Sinclair College.

I asked her if using dating apps to find potential mates is a good thing. Or bad? And why?

She answered, “Well, just like any other technology and social media, dating apps have both their positives and negatives. There have been a few studies in sociology exploring the positives and negatives for not just individuals seeking dating partners but also just what all of this means in general for everyday society. For example, dating apps have become big business and in many ways, when we use them, our profiles are like advertisements. Some question to what extent all of this just adds to the many forms of ways our “beings” just become commodities in the capitalist market? There are times, depending on the dating app, where people who use dating apps report feeling like they are just part of the dating meat market. Dating profiles are often created to present our best selves and just like advertising are ways to try to manage impressions of others. However, we do know that using dating apps can increase the possibility of finding a partner. This is especially important for people who, depending on where you live geographically, may not have a large dating pool of people with like interests and commonalities. Ultimately dating apps are neither good nor bad, it all depends on your approach and expectations.”

Since women seemed to be the only ones who wanted to participate in this article, I asked Rowell a question related to this. I inquired about the pros and cons of women using dating apps. She responded, “Dating apps have their pros and cons no matter who you are. There are many ways dating apps increase predatory behavior. Unfortunately for some, this means they can be used for financial dishonesty and for others it can be concerns with safety. Unfortunately, hate crime perpetrators are out there and they can use dating apps as a way to target people. Although there can be issues with safety concerns, dating apps can be a great way for anyone to take their time and get to know a person a little more before meeting them in person. Fortunately, with newer technologies like Zoom, we can even talk to them virtually before making a decision to go on an actual physical date.”

I then asked Rowell if she would recommend people use dating apps to find love. Or not? She stated, “I think dating apps can be a good way to find love, but you need to be strategic in your approach. Take time to do your homework on what dating app features might work best for you and also be sure to understand the safety features of the dating app. Be sure to take your time in getting to know someone. If it sounds too good to be true and if they are too quick or too pushy (just like real dating), be sure to make note of this. Be careful about giving out personal information too soon. If and when you decide to meet them in person, be sure to let someone know that you are going, etc. But clearly, increasingly people are meeting and finding love on dating apps. I am sure everyone reading this knows someone who has met their partner online.”

I wondered if there were things that people should consider before using dating apps? Rowell stated, “I think it is important to make sure you have good self-esteem and a sense of humor before using them and also to practice kindness. Dating apps are not for the faint of heart and can be used in negative ways. But for many, they have become a good way to find love.”

With the usage of these apps being so prevalent, I was curious about what Rowell thought about the future of dating apps. Did she think the usage would increase, or decrease? Would it morph in other ways?

“My guess is dating virtually is going to continue. In some ways they were really helpful to people during the COVID 19 pandemic when other forms of meeting people were not possible. I do think AI may greatly affect all of this and may very well add to the dishonesty and impression management issues already happening. It is going to be interesting to see.

As a sociologist, I was a little wary of using dating apps after a long-term marriage and recent divorce. I had not dated in over thirty years. When I first tried using a dating app, I did not talk to anyone for advice. It is important to let friends know you are using a dating app and I found advice really helpful. There were good and negative experiences throughout the journey. But, I am happy to say that I have been currently dating someone for over a year and ½. He lives about 45 minutes away and I would never have met him without using a dating app. In the end, it has been worth the journey.”

Dating apps are here, and will probably be for decades. And with that, the big question is, are the apps and their ecosystems complicated, or is it the people that use these apps?

Greg Simms Jr. is a veteran content creator and cultural expert who's worked for numerous digital publications over the years. He's a resident of Greene County, but he's always aware of social-cultural events happening all over the Miami Valley. To contact Greg, email him at: grgsmmsjr@gmail.com