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Everything dating apps don’t want you to know (from a former dating app employee)

Ghosting, swiping, flirting: I’ve seen it all. Casually throwing “Oh, I actually used to work for a dating app” in a conversation has become one of my favourite party tricks—typically followed up by the person asking for ‘insider info’ on how to crack the uncrackable code of the apps in question. Not saying I know more than any of them do, although I may have acquired some unbeknown wisdom. But where do I draw the line between being a good advisor and breaking an NDA?

Don’t get me wrong, I was just a mere copywriter—but after getting to see the inner workings of matchmaking in real-time, I do have some insights for you. And I understand the appeal of asking. After all, everyone needs a too-good-to-be-true lifehack promising that it will turn your dating life from lukewarm “Hey what’s up”s into spectacular dates. There’s a lot of strange stuff happening in the dating world, but for the sake of not getting in trouble, most of these conclusions are merely subjective and served with a side of my own perspective.

So, why is online dating so strange? Let’s find out.

1. The algorithm is working hard (against you)

This may seem obvious, but it doesn’t quite register in your mind when you’re on a dating app as a user. “Aw, how cute, people come on this app to find just what they’re looking for” is probably what all of us are thinking, right? Well, I’m really sorry to break it to you, but much like any business, the main agenda of a dating app is to keep you engaged on the platform at all costs. How? By dangling a carrot of connection, giving you just enough to keep you communicating but not enough to find the love of your life and delete your account altogether. Sinister, I know.

Have you noticed that dating apps kind of always leave you wanting more? How does the algorithm do it? Most prevalently, by making it seem like your options are endless.

2. The illusion of infinite supply

This is actually a well-known phenomenon that just straight-up messes with us. Dating apps are designed to make you feel like there are oh-so-many great people to connect with. In between the endless swiping, you can’t help but wonder: How can I ensure this person I just matched with is the most compatible partner for me? There must be more, right?

We now begin to view our romantic connections as something disposableand no one here is to blame, really. Just one more swipe, just one more late-night “wyd” or coffee date,  and you might find what you’ve been needing all along. Because why would you settle for someone who doesn’t love The Office as much as you do, or whose music taste isn’t perfectly aligned with yours, when the next person might?

Factors like commitment, effort, patience, and conscious dedication of your time that are all required to make dating valuable go out of the window. Now, let’s be honest here. At the end of the day, we all still believe in finding ‘the one’ but the problem is we no longer believe it’s possible to build that with time and patienceinstead, we like to think it’ll be served fresh and ready to go. Caught up in our own ideas of “just another swipe,” we then start to forget that dating is not exactly a grocery store run.

3. Most people aren’t on the apps to date

Yeah, ouch, this one stings the most—call me naive, but I didn’t know this before I observed it firsthand. Upon researching user behaviour closely and regularly, I was surprised to find out just how many users log on daily (don’t you people have a job?) for a quick dopamine boost ignited by being liked back, starting a conversation just to abandon it minutes later, or scrolling through a catalogue of photos.

A lot of these people have no intention of meeting in real life or turning any of their online exchanges into something tangible and worthwhilethey literally just want to feel chosen for a split second. And I don’t really know why it took me so long to accept that, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind for when you’re wondering why they’re not asking you out. Bad news: they were never planning to do it. Good news: it was never about you.

4. People are desperate and lonely

As a woman who primarily dates men, I’ve always struggled to understand what the male species’ intentions on dating apps are (beyond the obvious). I’ll let you in on one thing I’ve learned: the majority of straight men are lonely and super desperate. They will “swipe right” on almost anyone and copy-paste the same message to every woman that blesses them with a mutual like. And as their chances of being liked back are statistically quite low, they’re going into it with a very obvious—albeit well-hidden—scarcity mindset.

Most men on dating apps will entertain connection with whoever they can get, not who they truly want. To them, anything goes! It’s upsetting and strange, but you can kind of sense it when you’re talking to one: the energy is draining, the conversation is dry, and you’re obviously not feeling it but can’t quite pinpoint why. That’s why I emphasise the importance of being intentional with your matches and not taking things personally—if they don’t seem too interested, that’s because they aren’t. You’re just the only one in their notifications tab.

5. Want a relationship? Get ready to suffer

Ask any 20-something looking for a relationship on dating apps how we’re doing—we’re in the trenches fighting for our lives. It’s no secret that hookup culture has made it near impossible to find something long-term and serious among the infinite “let’s just see how it goes” and casual persuasion. You will most certainly be met with a ton of rejection if you go into it asking for your needs to be met. You might even begin to think it’s better to not bring it up until it’s too late, and I don’t blame you for that.

The only way to combat the ever present casualty and find what you’re truly looking for? Be so unapologetically outspoken about what you want that no amount of late night “come over” texts will be able to mess with your boundaries.

At the end of the day, online dating is what you make it. Among the horror I’ve seen (both as a user and an employee), I’ve witnessed some really cute and genuine love stories unfold too. My advice is simple, but it works: be bold, date intentionally, and don’t take anything personally. I’ve not unveiled all the secrets, but you now know that most people on these apps have no idea what they’re doing. But knowledge is power—and you know yourself and what you want better than anyone. So, don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

Sincerely,

A former dating app employee

‘Ethical sex-ploration’ and two other trends that Bumble predicts will shape our dating lives in 2023

When it comes to dating, the devil—aka that supposed ‘pro-surfer’ who chatted to you for weeks, met your mum over FaceTime, and then ditched midway through a round of appetisers—works hard, but Bumble works harder. The year is almost over, and while questionable online habits such as winter coating and reverse catfishing lay to waste in the graveyard of 2022, a new horizon is approaching, filled to the brim with fresh dating trends geared towards us, the most chaotic yet purposeful and diverse cohort to date: gen Z.

Bumble gathered this data by conducting internal polling from 12 October to 1 November 2022 using a sample of 14,300 users from around the world.

So, with the women-first dating app’s forecasts fresh and warm in my hands, let me take you on a journey to explore and explain three of the most gen Z-orientated trends set to dominate our romantic lives in 2023.

1. Ethical sex-ploration

Bumble has an extensive history of championing progressive and healthy habits when it comes to our swiping and liking habits. Both its zero-tolerance for ghosting as well as its participation in the fight against cyberflashing clearly shines a light on the company prioritising the promotion of constructive and safe online connections.

This latest trend is no different. SCREENSHOT was lucky enough to sneak a peak, and when we heard about ‘Ethical sex-ploration’, our ears pricked up. As Bumble explains, “The way that we are talking, thinking about, and having sex is changing.” According to the app’s data, 42 per cent of us are approaching sex, intimacy, and dating in an open and exploratory way, and sex is no longer taboo. In fact, more than half of the daters surveyed agreed that it’s important to discuss sexual wants and needs early on in a relationship.

Over the past year, 20 per cent have explored their sexuality more, and 14 per cent are considering a non-monogamous relationship. It’s true that gen Z is the queerest generation yet—according to LGBTQIA-focused publication Them, the current self-diagnosing TikTok scrollers and Y2K obsessives are inherently far more comfortable exploring their sexualities and gender than previous groups. Surveys have recently shown that 15.9 per cent of gen Zers would describe themselves as queer or transgender.

Bumble has spotted a clear shift among young daters who are seeking the same sexual diversity and inclusion that they see in the world, reflected in the apps they use to find meaningful romantic connections. Relationship practices such as polyamory or solo polyamory have gained massive traction among young adults who’ve begun to seek partnerships outside of the binary monogamous format.

This diversity also includes people who aren’t seeking sex, which is an equally valid path to follow. Bumble also told us that from the data it has analysed, 34 per cent people are not currently having sex and are completely okay with it.

2. Dating Renaissance

First time dating app users—this one’s for you. Some may glance at the name of this 2023 trend and picture a slideshow of prospective partners donning corsets, puffed sleeves, feathers and ruffles. However, this particular renaissance is far more exciting and involves far less fanciful clothing.

Bumble’s data has picked up a rather interesting pattern, the fact that 39 per cent of the users on the popular app have ended a marriage or serious relationship in the last two years. It seems these newly singles are jumping into their second chapter with 36 per cent reportedly using dating apps for the first time.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a slump, still longingly holding onto photo booth reels and that one shared jumper, push away the kleenex and head over to a dating app which might help you pour some spice back into your life. Oh, and while scrolling, why not also fall back in love with Beyoncé’s magnetic house album, Renaissance.

Diving head first into these apps can be intimidating, so make sure to also take your time navigating these deep waters—and remember, not all fish are sharks! Although, you can always keep guardrailing (another one of the company’s 2023 trends) in mind, which states that establishing regular emotional boundaries should always be the top priority.

On Bumble, 85 per cent of users are looking for a long term relationship, so if you’re just hunting for a casual thing, maybe head elsewhere.

3. New Year, New Me(n)

Gen Zers are praised by some and criticised by others (boomers) for their relentless pursuit of diversity, inclusion and freedom of expression. We’re unwavering in our fight for progressive politics and we’re not shy about it—not very snowflake of us, hm? Well, it would make sense then that gen Zers who are romantically or sexually interested in men are looking for shared perspectives. And it turns out, they might be in luck.

Bumble’s third forecasted dating trend is ‘New Year, New Me(n)’. According to the app, conversations about gender norms and expectations have been front and centre. Over the last year, 74 per cent of men say they have examined their behaviour more than ever and have a clearer understanding of toxic masculinity and what is not acceptable.

It should be noted that there have been various debates about the validity of toxic masculinity and whether or not as a concept it actually helps to educate boys and men. The Atlantic, for example, noted in 2019: “The concept of toxic masculinity encourages an assumption that the causes of male violence and other social problems are the same everywhere, and therefore, that the solutions are the same as well. While themes of violence, entitlement, and sexism recur across communities, they show up differently in different places.” 

This comment encourages us to consider some of the nuances when it comes to tackling these issues—maybe dating apps are a good place to start? Bumble has identified a clear positive shift among male users of its app. Defying traditional romantic norms has an abundance of benefits for all those involved, from avoiding awkward conversations to preventing gender-based violence.

From surveying its users, the app found that more than 52 per cent are actively challenging stereotypes that suggest that men should not show emotions. On top of that, 38 per cent now speak more openly about their emotions with their male friends, and 49 per cent of men agree that breaking gender roles in dating and relationships is beneficial for them too.

And with so many more men taking the time to be proactive and prioritise relearning when it comes to these societal issues, maybe users could also partake in another popular dating forecast, ‘Open Casting’. Ditch the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ taglines and see what else is out there, you might surprise yourself.

So, there we have it, Bumble has bequeathed us with some of the freshest dating trends which could even persuade the most TikTok-obsessed gen Zer to shift their interest from golden retriever content to finding love online.