Ever since 2016, the internet has made a tradition out of celebrating surveillance capitalism in the guise of tailored reports that recap our habits of the year. Following the launch of Spotify Wrapped—the coveted feature that fans routinely grind towards and base their entire personality around when it drops every December—the concept of a ‘year-in-review’ has gripped most digital services today.
While Apple Music has its revamped Replay feature and YouTube Music offers a Recap experience, Deezer releases its summaries in the form of #MyDeezerYear and Amazon Music generates rather disappointing playlists for users. Heck, even Reddit has its own Recap feature that illustrates the amount of time you spent shitposting and visiting various subs in the hopes of finding a custom long Furby.
Over the past few years, Spotify Wrapped’s impact has catapulted the feature as a cultural reset among gen Zers and millennials alike. Today, both generations expect every single online platform to track and judge their data in exchange for aesthetic statistics they can share with the rest of the world. And, as it turns out, their dating lives are no exception.
A Spotify Wrapped report essentially gives you insights about your top five artists, genres and songs, audio personality (what even is Sorrow Escapism Liminal Space?), and amount of minutes listened. Now, imagine such information being pulled from your miserable presence on dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and more.
If you ask me, the report would read something like this: “In 2022, you swiped right on 26 crypto bros and 38 people named Matt. You went on a sum total of 25 dates with your matches, out of whom 5 kittenfished you, 13 ghosted you right after, and 2 blocked and reported your profile to our teams. You took 150 screenshots of cringey profiles to share with your WhatsApp group chat, and even rage quit our app 7 times. What was that all about, huh?”
“You also received 57 unsolicited gym selfies, but to top things off, you were among the top 1 per cent of users who slid into people’s DMs at 3 am! Congratulations, your dating app rizz is doomed beyond recovery!”
It’s worth noting that the conversation about dating apps having their own year-in-review feature has been making the rounds for a while now. In 2020, comedian Grace Hayes went viral after she uploaded her DIY Bumble Wrapped on TikTok. Leveraging the green screen effect, Hayes curated #bumblewrapped on the video-sharing platform—with 44,800 views and counting. The clip was so popular that even Bumble left a comment stating: “This is AMAZING. Inspiring us 😏😏”
The following year, software engineer Niko Draca created a third-party website for Hinge users to generate their own Wrapped reports. “First thing you’ll see is how many people you encountered on the app and how many you said yes to,” Draca explained in the widely-circulated clip. “Then you’ll see all of the likes, rejections, matches, etc over the year. You can also see what time of the day you sent the most chat messages, how many people you chatted with in total, and how long those conversations lasted.” Apart from the top three emojis, the website additionally provided users with a word cloud made up of the terms they deployed the most in DMs.
Draca was undoubtedly the trailblazer for Hinge Wrapped, and it’s safe to say that the dating app has been real quiet since the video went viral.
Fast forward to 2022, TikTok users have now taken things up a notch with a trend called ‘Dating Wrapped’—where they are seen brutally recapping their past year in romance in hopes of manifesting a better love life. Here, insights are no longer restricted to a single dating app. Instead, they focus on the participants’ relationship exploits in general, including how they met their matches, what they did on first dates, and how many times they cried over someone.
All of the data is then collated onto… a PowerPoint slideshow, and the deck is later presented using a laptop angled towards the viewers.
“[This is] truly one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done,” said Toronto-based TikToker Alexandria McLean in her video which is believed to have kicked off the trend. “I went on 21 first dates… Yikes! I met 66 per cent [of matches] on Bumble and 33 per cent on Hinge. In terms of where we went, activity and dinner are tied at 30 per cent, coffee [and] walking dates [are] at 28 per cent, and drinks are 42 per cent. I don’t know why I went on so many walking dates, I hate walking dates.”
“In terms of who ended it, 90 per cent [of matches] ended it with me. Honestly, [that’s] a low number considering I’m a walking red flag,” McLean continued. “So, if you want to go out and want to be a part of my 2023 Dating Wrapped, hit me up!”
Shortly after McLean’s video floored TikTok, users started querying the creator about the PowerPoint template and font she’d used for her presentation. It even paved the way for the rise of #datingwrapped, now with 8.1 million views and counting.
“If any of these men see this, I want you to know that you’re not special and you’re just a number to me,” TikToker Amber Smith captioned her video, which has since garnered over 3.1 million views. In the clip, Smith detailed that she went on 18 first dates, was handed two parking tickets, and spent a total of $383.36 on her matches. “I wish I had not calculated this number,” she stated. “What could I have done with this money? Literally anything else would’ve been better.”
As of today, the concept of Dating Wrapped has evolved to include star signs, age gaps, red, beige and pink flags, the number of hoodies participants have stolen from their partners, STIs they’ve treated, as well as the number of tattoos they regret getting. While some bestow digital awards to their dates, others are seen creating introvert and queer editions of the trend.
Given how 2022 still has a couple of weeks left to conclude, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness the introduction of even more metrics to publicly analyse our love lives on the internet. Maybe the presentations can have a section where people note the different aesthetics and subcultures they’ve dated in the past year?
At the end of the day, no matter how many slides you choose to include in your deck, the aim of Dating Wrapped at its core is self-reflection. So, you’re good as long as you walk away with actionable insights and don’t bring all the negative energy gathered in 2022 into your love life in 2023.
If you’ve stumbled across #datingwrapped on TikTok before, you might have noticed comments along the lines of “Don’t be shy, drop that PowerPoint template,” and “What’s the name of the font you’ve used? Where do I download it from?” Sure, these remarks might just be pointers that ultimately help others jump on the trend, however, it’s also another incognito factor that aids the popularity of Dating Wrapped.
With a presence that can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, PowerPoint presentations have become the zeitgeist of gen Zers in cyberspace today. Be it to mansplain our hobbies or interests to others, give a crash course about our favourite series nobody asked for, plot moves in Clash of Clans, prove “the One Piece is real,” or justify that Chainsaw Man’s Makima is worth simping for, slideshows have become our weapon of choice to present peers with digestible chunks of information about the most unhinged topics.
If you really think about it, the resurgence of PowerPoints can be linked to our pathetic eight-second attention span. Gen Zers crave dynamicity in everything they are exposed to and what better way to explain something to the generation than using infographics they can breeze through?
The format also harbours parallels with LOL graphs or ‘silly graphs’ that first gripped meme culture in the mid-2000s. The statistical representation essentially doubled as a visual aid—designed to explain the most non-academic and trivial subjects “for teh lulz XD.”
Back to the case of Dating Wrapped, the trend checks out—considering how gen Z Spotify fans have proved to be least concerned about how Big Tech uses their personal data. “I wonder about all my stats on Youtube, Discord, Instagram,” an enthusiast previously told SCREENSHOT. “I wish there were things like Spotify Wrapped in each of them where we can see all our data like the most watched video, channel etc. And even further, I wish god would show us data of our life.”
All that being said, the possibilities of dating apps implementing a Wrapped-like feature seem bleak for the foreseeable future. Until then, you can choose to follow TikToker @cobiscreation’s advice and sneakily screenshot your crush’s Spotify Wrapped report the moment they share it on Instagram. You’ll know the exact songs and artists to stream the next time you guys hang out together.
Who knows, maybe it’ll work wonders for your 2023 Dating Wrapped… or not.
The daily doomscroll. On the toilet, in bed—wherever you’re doing it, just five minutes of flipping through your TikTok FYP represents an infinite number of ways in which you could come across a piece of information with the potential to ruin your day—and more often than not, your relationship too.
People are flocking to share intimate details of their love lives with complete strangers online. From #storytime and #messytiktok to #revengetok and #staytoxic, on TikTok, our deepest traumas can be triggered at any time with just a flick of our thumbs. This, in turn, begs the question: can watching these videos on a daily basis influence our own relationships? My personal opinion? Definitely. All too often.
Caught your boyfriend cheating? You can expose him, then douse everything he owns in glitter. Feeling lonely? A scroll through #breakuptok connects the ghosted, the breadcrumbed, and the unceremoniously dumped. A big trend is videoing oneself mid-breakdown. The dumpee might sob uncontrollably or stare into space, a single tear rolling down a puffy cheek. Most videos are overlaid with text narrating their story, ramped up with a sad song.
As an attempt at capturing and communicating the subject’s raw feelings, these videos can be upsetting, and even disturbing to watch (particularly if you’re going through, or have been through, something similar). While most users actively seek comfort and connection at a vulnerable moment in their lives, others want control and empowerment—and this is where things can get complicated.
Just check the comments under any viral video that details cheating, lying, or betrayal. Here, hundreds of users will lend support, detailing their own traumatic experiences, while others share tricks to prevent heartbreak and betrayal. Spoiler alert: you can’t really achieve the latter—but reading them will make you think you can.
Suspicious lovers swap notes on how to check a partner’s internet history to see if they’re cheating. Tinder users remind each other that you can check when your hook-up last used the app, because their geographical location updates each time they open it. Some even admit to looking at their ex’s Spotify playlists, searching for hidden meaning. Meanwhile, unrequited lovers screenshot their crush’s Snapscore to check if it’s just them they’re ignoring and some people even scrutinise their partner’s Venmo purchases looking for clues.
Seasoned sleuthers can go so far as to hack into or create fake Instagram accounts, specifically with the intent to monitor what their person of interest is doing. Some send text messages hoping to catch them red-handed by pretending to be someone else entirely, while others employ ‘honey trappers’ to test their partner’s loyalty. Many of these practices could be classed as cyberstalking—a criminal offence under American anti-stalking, slander, and harassment laws—plus, they’re detrimental to overall health and happiness.
Relationship expert Jessica Alderson told SCREENSHOT: “Many of the viewers of videos and comments like this would have never thought to conduct research like that. In addition, seeing other people social media sleuthing and telling their stories can make people insecure about their own relationships which, in turn, can cause them to do things that they wouldn’t have otherwise done. This is more likely to cause problems than provide solutions.”
Alderson went on to add: “It’s now easier than ever to look someone up online, and with that has come a greater potential for misuse. This can result in serious psychological consequences such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.”
Whether you’ve just been broken up with—drink your water, eat your vegetables, you’ve got this—you’re navigating a situationship, or you’ve been with your person for years, copying this TikTok activity puts you at risk of unnecessary issues and disputes.
Few of us could truly say that we’ve never engaged in a little light stalking. You know the drill—you meet someone new, give them a follow, and carry out a routine vibe check. It’s all too easy to find yourself lurking five years deep into their grid, doing everything not to accidentally tap the heart button as you note that their ex-partner is annoyingly beautiful, a great dancer, and speaks seven languages.
Suddenly, your mind works overtime to piece together the ‘evidence’ it has now gathered, weaving a (completely made up) narrative that clouds your thoughts. Out of nowhere, you might feel insecure, unsettled, and even a bit sad—a feeling that can linger.
You’ve given your brain the chance to ruminate on a person’s past—a past they are completely entitled to have. At best, you’ve robbed yourself of an opportunity to start fresh with this person, hearing their stories the way they wanted to tell them. At worst, you come out feeling less cool, fun, or attractive than previous people they’ve been close to. This can do nothing but hurt your relationship or hook-up, and it might stop it from happening altogether.
It’s a lose-lose situation. So, what do we do about it? For a lot of us, the process involves the hardest task of all: taking a break from social media altogether.
“Focus on making your life the best it can be. This might involve spending time with your friends, pursuing your passions, or taking on an extra project at work,” Alderson advised.
“Essentially, you want to divert your time and attention elsewhere, to activities that make a positive difference in your life,” she continued.
– Practise mindful social media use. Take regular breaks from your devices and spend that time engaging in activities that don’t involve technology, such as physical exercise, reading, or creative hobbies.
– If you catch yourself feeling tempted to start looking up information about people online, pause and ask yourself what you’ll gain from doing it. Consider whether the risks outweigh the benefits. One point to be particularly mindful of is that what you see online may not be accurate, and it can often be misleading.
– Setting clear boundaries when it comes to looking people up online can help if you are prone to social media sleuthing. For some, this might involve not Googling someone until they hit a certain milestone, such as the fifth date or the ‘exclusive’ status in a relationship. For others, this could mean no social media sleuthing at all, or only looking up certain information once if you feel like it will improve your sense of safety on a date.
– Ask yourself whether your interest is coming from a healthy place. Wanting to discover more about someone you like is completely natural, but before looking them up online, reflect on whether your desire is coming from a healthy place or a place of insecurity. This is one of the best litmus tests to help figure out whether you should take a certain course of action.
– Take steps to protect yourself online. This could include changing your privacy settings and being mindful of the information you share publicly. A social media audit is always a good idea, which involves going through all of your accounts and deleting or adjusting any information that you don’t want people to see.
– Give yourself time to grieve. This might take a while, and that’s okay. When someone has invaded your privacy in this way, it can be a traumatic experience. You want to ensure that you process your emotions as best as possible in order to reduce the risk of experiencing trust issues going forward.
– If you’ve been a victim of social media sleuthing, you should seek help from people close to you or professionals. It can be hard to heal and move on.