Jordan has been on and off dating app Tinder for the past four
years but recently deleted it in a fit of frustration. She had
been talking to a man on the app and scheduled a time to meet up
that day, but when she messaged him to confirm, he disappeared.
sucks in New York,” says Ms. Jordan, a 31-year-old manager at a
hair salon New York City. “There are so many options, and it can
be really overwhelming.”
struggling to meet people without apps, she downloaded the app
Hinge, which seemed like a happy medium. The app’s
incorporation of icebreaker questions and more detailed
profiles made her connections feel more substantial. “I still
wish there were more ways to meet people organically and in
person,” she says. “People are different when they talk to you
from behind a screen.”
like her who have spent years rapidly swiping through singles
are looking to slow down dating. Zeroing in on fewer possible
partners with more potential feels like a relief to them.
Jordan says she believes some dating apps encourage bad
behavior. One guy drank a whole pitcher of margaritas on their
weeknight date. Another turned out to be in a relationship
already. Several others “ghosted” her—stopped communication
without explanation. Eventually she put a disclaimer in her
profile: no “pen pals,” or people just in town for one night,
no hookups, and “no
scrubs,” or freeloaders.
a constant theme in the history of dating that people are
stressed out about it,” says Moira Weigel, dating historian
and author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating.”
apps have created a fatigue that is qualitatively new because
an app is never not there. There is something new about the
intensity with which these apps wear people out.”
$2.9 billion dating industry has seen a 140% increase in
revenue since 2009, according to a report from market research
firm IBISWorld. Mobile dating services have represented the
fastest-growing segment of the industry and account for 31% of
total industry revenue. A spokeswoman for Match Group says
downloads of Tinder’s app remain consistent on a world-wide
and domestic basis. She didn’t provide user numbers.
George, a 39-year-old financial planner in Atlanta, had grown
weary of online dating when his friend Dani Johnson invited
him to join an experiment she was creating: a dating club
called Black Gentry. “It feels very manufactured when you get
onto Tinder or Bumble and you end up on an assembly line of
dates,” he says.
Johnson set up a group chat and began to plan meetups for the
40 single members. There were a few core requirements to join:
Participants were all in their late 20s to late 30s,
African-American and vetted in person before attending.
group met at bars and participated in activities like laser
tag. One night they played a game of Jenga with questions or
prompts on each wooden piece like “hold your partner’s hand
until the next turn.” In the group chat, participants
discussed their expectations and experiences with dating. The
project led to more than a dozen successful dates and four
couples within the group. Another 10 people found partners
outside the group or rekindled romances with past partners.
unintended outcome was that by slowing dating down and talking
about goals and values, people were able to think about how
they were showing up in their relationships and engaging
others,” Ms. Johnson says.
options continue to gain popularity. Offline dating service
Three Day Rule, which charges singles $4,500 for 6 months of
dating coaching and handpicked partners, doubled its revenue
last year and expanded to its 10th city in the U.S. in June.
Once, a platform that sends users just one potential match
each day, launched in October 2015 in France and expanded to
the U.S. in April. The app hit 7 million downloads globally in
which owns Tinder and OkCupid, is eyeing slow dating as well.
In June, it
acquired Hinge, which positions itself as a more
deliberate alternative to gamelike dating services like
saw its user base grow by more than 400% after redesigning the
platform in 2017 to eliminate its swiping feature after
learning 80% of its users had never found a long-term
relationship on a dating app, according to Justin McLeod,
Hinge’s CEO and co-founder. The changes were meant to foster
more selectivity. Heterosexual men swipe right or “like” 70%
of women on swiping apps but “like” just 20% on Hinge, he
apps flatten people and objectify them, making them into a
little card you can swipe through,” Mr. McLeod says.
“Packaging people like fast-food items makes you forget there
is a human on the other side of the app.”
those who reject apps outright, there’s always the
old-fashioned practice of meeting people in person, an
experiment that Susan, a 34-year-old nonprofit director in
Texas, began this year. She recently gave a man her number
while shopping at Old Navy. She has handed business cards to
men at the airport and in the park. She’s currently seeing a
man she met at a swing-dancing night. A return to real-life
dating feels revolutionary in this age, says Susan, who asked
that her last name not be used.
is a more natural approach and it’s what we should have been
doing all along,” she says. “It is a sad millennial age we
live in when we are already addicted to our phones and we are
relying on our phones to make our dating decisions.”