By Mik Hyldebrandt
So, I have never been on a dating or hook-up app. I met my partner the ‘traditional way’ while we were volunteering at a non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. Yeah, so we were go-go dancers for their nightlife initiative, so not quite traditional anyway, I suppose. Instead of locking eyes across a room, we immediately got very physically close to each other, because, you know, choreography. But sparks definitely flew.
Although I have never been on a hookup app, I do consider myself a valid witness as to how apps have completely changed the landscape of dating to a point where we now have a whole generation of people who grew up dating mainly via an app on their phone. As an outsider but also a confidant to my friends’ dating endeavors, I have seen how online dating, which was later replaced (almost completely) by mobile dating, went from being taboo to a completely integrated part of modern dating. The question of ‘how did you two meet?’ would back in the day probably require a well-rehearsed and vague story about meeting through a mutual friend because online or mobile dating just wasn’t comme il faut. It wasn’t the ‘right’ way to meet a potential partner. Today, the dating game fully incorporates apps, in fact, it is the go-to method when it comes to hooking up or dating, and is simply the way you connect with someone in the digital age. We have become technosexuals.
But it seems things are about to change again because even though apps are an excellent gateway for connectivity to other guys, it doesn’t do much for the actual connection, it seems. I have heard complaints about how apps can be a wasteful effort given the time you spend getting to know, ‘vetting,’ and negotiating with a potential date or hook-up partner. Add to that the fact that your online persona who is sparky and delightfully sexy online, may crumble under shyness or insecurity once you meet face to face. Sure, if you’re just out to get laid, your profile can set up a menu for what you offer and what you prefer, but if it comes to dating and going through the motions of getting to know someone, mobile dating is bound to fall short because of its innate sexual nature – or algorithm rather.
The consequence? Many have deleted the multitude of mobile dating app offerings to focus on a select few that cover their hook-up needs with the potential of meeting someone eligible to go on a date with. Unless the app is strictly focused on sex, the nature of the profiles has also changed to incorporate less sex and more intimacy. A close friend told he had just as many cuddle dates as actual sex dates, and although the cuddling may lead to sex, the focus was simply being close to someone else and experiencing physical bonding and closeness. Cute, but also a testament as to how the mobile dating culture has moved towards phasing out ‘traditional’ cruising and locking those eyes across that room. Flirting is also suffering heavily under the apps, because I have seen literally hundreds of times how friends have spotted a hot guy at the bar, and then immediately consult their phone to give him a woof or wave instead of an in-person ‘hi’ with eye contact.
If mobile dating acts as an extension of real life dating habits then there seems to be a gap between what the apps offer, and what we actually want. Mobile dating has done away with a good deal of romanticism and intimacy, but somehow that’s exactly what we’ve ended up wanting.
So what do we do from? How does the dating game move away from being an almost gamified experience to also being about seeking intimacy that could potentially translate into a long-term connection? Maybe it’s starting to flirt again, making eye contact while stowing away your phone in your back pocket not to be taken out again. Maybe it’s re-learning the art of cruising where it’s all about bodily signals however subtle they may be. Or maybe – before we know it – there will be an app for that too.
Mikkel Hyldebrandt is the editor of Peach Magazine. Feel free to email him questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.