SWIPE FOR SADNESS.
The last decade (not to mention lockdown) has seen a significant uplift in online dating, and with it, technology has introduced a whole new way of having fun and finding "The One". In 1995 we saw the launch of Match.com, since then, swipe-based dating apps have taken over the online dating scene. The most popular swipe-based apps include Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid.
There's enough evidence to suggest that swiping apps do work. According to The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement Study, a healthy 22% of married couples met through such apps.
While this certainly gives us singletons a glimmer of hope, it's also worth highlighting that research conducted by the University of Sydney has linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of psychological distress, meaning that dating apps can – literally – be depressing. Researches are actually observing a change in our self esteem, caused by the simple fact that evaluating other people’s profiles even impacts our own self-esteem and confidence, leading to users feeling objectified.
But if we know these apps are causing us fatigue, and impacting our self-confidence levels, why do we continue to ride this carousel of dating disappointments? Well... to put it simply, there is a major part of our brain that activates when we receive a notification of a match/message, it's otherwise known as the reward system. This area of the brain is connected to circuits that have a lot to do with gratification in the limbic system, as the trigger passes through these pathways, dopamine (a chemical that mediates pleasure) is released which gives us a burst of happiness.
DATING APPS ARE DESIGNED LIKE SLOT MACHINES
By the way, I'm not attempting to put you off dating apps, but it's useful to know these scientific-based facts. When we look at addiction, we know the usual suspects: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and of course, gambling. Getting a match with someone on a dating app gives you the option to pursue this potential or not. Much like slot machines, it's ease of use is incredibly simple, and (dare I say!) fun to use. When you pull on the lever; images appear on the screen, a bit of text blinks in front of your eyes and some flashing lights appear, it only takes one move to the left or right that could land you the jackpot. You just never know what's coming next, and that's what makes dating apps so addictive.
ENTER A NEW GENERATION OF DATING APPS
As the dating app industry continues to grow and evolve, we're seeing the development of new features in existing apps (ie. in-app video calling and passport), the appearance of niche apps demonstrating that no matter who you are or what your interests may be, there's guaranteed to be matchmaking service out there for you, and finally the rise of non-swipe dating apps.
According to research with 5,000 British 18-30 year olds by the dating app Badoo, 68% disliked swiping and matches based on appearances alone, believing it's a meaningless way to connect with other people, thus resulting in half-assed, dead-end conversations. Ugh, I know it all too well!
Over the last few weeks, I've been fortunate enough to connect with a number of talented non-swipe app founders in the landscape. From virtual blind speed dating, to matching through music, and wearable gadgets! There's certainly some fresh and exciting concepts underway for us romantic hopefuls.
STRIKING UP A CONVERSATION
More recently, I've been chatting to Alexandra Bohnes, a Founder of Strike. As she walked me through the background and user experience, I immediately thought the most "striking" (sorry, not sorry!) aspect of the overall concept was that it's not actually a dating app! Rather, they've developed a small piece of hardware called Scout, which is about the size of a USB stick and can be attached to your keys or kept in your bag/pocket.
Sure, there's the app aspect which is solely for setting up your personal profile and search criteria. However, Strike completely eradicates swiping and texting, with the aim of connecting you with matches once they cross your path, enabling matching in real life, in real time, with real chemistry! Leaving the tedious work to the Scout, it continuously scans a user's surroundings to find singles that match your search criteria (FYI - mobile data or wi-fi isn't required at any point). The technology ensures that your match is in close distance, for example 20 feet, enabling real time encounters... you know, as you would if you were in a bar or your local Starbucks. Pretty cool right? And if you need a little break from dating, the Scout can be switched on/off.
In addition, as someone who works in Marketing/Technology, I know the importance of data protection, so it's worth noting that Strike are General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant. They've created a layer within the technology that makes it impossible for third parties to access any personal data. Generally unless you have an awareness about data protection, users don't really think about where their personal data is stored and how it could be used once they sign up, enter and save their information!
In the coming month I'll be tasked with two things: (1) looking at user experience for the app component and (2) assessing usability of the Scout technology. I'm very excited to trial this product and put it to the test! For reference I'll have 2 Scouts, so will give one to my friend by way of creating a "match". Stay tuned for my (or should I say "our") brutally honest review! Furthermore, Alexandra will be joining me on the podcast in the very near future so keep an eye out for that episode too!
Let's be real, there's no shortage of negativity surrounding swipe-based dating apps, and while I don't think they'll completely die out, I'm confident we'll begin to see a slow shift back towards real life dating. I'm sure many can agree that it's time we wave goodbye to preconceived judgements, ghosting, catfishing, or any other de-humanising dating trends.
To find out more about Strike, check out their Instagram page here!