Is Mobile Dating Really Causing A ‘Dating Apocalypse’?
Is it possible that relationships aren’t forming in-person as often because younger generations are lacking experience interacting with people in person, while the in-person interpersonal skills of older generations have suffered from atrophy as the advent of ever-present digital communication continues?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he talking about the “10,000 hour rule,” which says that you can become an expert at anything if you spend at least 10,000 hours doing it. So if you play basketball, for instance, for an average of two to three hours per day for 10 years, you should be NBA-ready.
The average guy and girl in America, before widespread use of social media and online dating, probably accumulated 10,000 hours talking to members of the opposite sex in a social or romantic capacity fairly early in life. But now you don’t have to have a girl in front of you in order to communicate with her. It’s probably much easier to spend 10,000 hours talking to women digitally, since you can communicate with multiple women at once that way, than it is to reach that threshold talking to them in person.
So it’s not the dating apps themselves; it’s the fact that they’re keeping us from getting as much practice talking to each other in person as we used to.
But that theory doesn’t completely exonerate the rise of online dating from the potential obstacles it presents.
“Apps like Tinder and OkCupid give people the impression that there are thousands or millions of potential mates out there,” David Buss, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Vanity Fair in an article entitled Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse. “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.”
This assessment ties into the paradox of choice, which says that the more options we have, the longer we tend to deliberate and the more we tend to second guess ourselves when we finally make a decision.
But it’s not as if divorce rates were lower before the rise of online dating; they were actually at all-time highs in America during the 1970s and 80s, and have steadily decreased ever since. Mobile dating is still relatively new, so it remains to be seen if it causes a spike in divorces.
Also, it’s kind of hard to quantify how “unstable” marriages have become because of dating apps compared to other factors that may lead to unstable marriages. It’s like the old argument about violent video games: Do they cause kids to adopt violent behaviors or do already-violent kids gravitate toward those types of games? Are dating apps making marriages unstable or are people in already-unstable marriages gravitating toward them?
Ultimately, dating apps have been popular for too short a time to draw any profound conclusions about their pros and cons, but they’ve certainly changed the landscape.
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About Jordan Murray Jordan is a journalist who has written extensively about dating and lifestyle for multiple publications.