‘We are in unchartered territory,’ writes Justin Garcia, a research scientist at Indiana University’s Kinsey institute. It is hard to disagree.
It is Garcia’s assertion that dating apps are conducive to a hook-up culture in millennials – by design or otherwise. Living as we do in a relatively sexually-liberated society, the concept of the hook-up culture begs the question of to what extent – if any – is it harmful to so actively seek multiple partners for little attachment, as opposed to one partner for much attachment? And furthermore, therefore, is hook-up culture leading to a decline in monogamy?
Updating the dating lingo
The term ‘hook-up’ has been in common vernacular for over two decades and, whilst its definition can vary quite widely, it is generally regarded as a sexual rendezvous with expectation of either little or no emotional involvement from both parties. Such encounters are particularly normative amongst students and, more broadly, young adults: studies show that between one and two thirds of young adults in the Western world would categorise themselves as regular hooker-uppers (a term I definitely didn’t just make up!).
The relatively recent arrival of ‘hook-up’ in mainstream vocabulary coincides with the beginning of online dating around twenty years ago. With the advent of the smartphone came online-dating apps, of which, back in the present, Tinder is far and away the most popular. As of the start of this year, Tinder had over 50 million users worldwide, and this number is only increasing exponentially. Tinder has gained a reputation – rightly or wrongly – as the ultimate ‘hook-up’ app. Nowhere in the app’s marketing is there an explicit message to its users to engage in hook-ups, but the app does, in many ways, lend itself to this behaviour. The platform is designed very minimally, and users often swipe right (‘yes’) or left (‘no’) based on but a single picture; it is also free. Even if they do choose to view further information on the person, this will be nothing more than a short, character-limited bio and a few more pictures. This minimalism places low importance on time and emotional commitment and high importance on being physically validated, right here, right now. (This in turn can lead to narcissism). In the age of social media, instant gratification comes at a premium.
Whilst it is not necessarily fair, or indeed correct, to blame Tinder for creating a generation of intensely-competitive yet transient daters – that is an entirely different argument, both philosophical and psychological (on which one could write an entire doctoral thesis!) – it is irrefutable that this shift in the dating game is causing long-term shifts in dating outcomes – ‘long-term’ being operative, here. I am referring of course, to monogamy.
Evolution vs. smartphone
Monogamy has a deep evolutionary history, far beyond the dawn of humanity, and originated as a means of ensuring that offspring were resourced sufficiently that they survived into adulthood. Humans evolved in groups only around thirty strong at the most, incomparable to the populations of today’s metropoles, and their ‘dating’ practices were therefore also incomparable. For our distant ancestors, ‘hot Tinder action’ simply meant particularly good kindling on the fire!
Biologically speaking, men have a greater innate urge to sleep with multiple partners than do women. This combined with the rise of dating apps, has led to a decline in monogamy being the norm amongst young adults, who are experiencing their nascent years of love and heartbreak. It could be argued further, that dating apps – again, Tinder being the prime example – have warped people’s expectations of what romance is – how it manifests, how it plays out in reality – leading to millennials in particular believing that monogamy is somewhat outside the norm.
Numerous relationship studies conducted throughout the existence of dating apps have shown time and again that, all variables being equal, single people who are not on dating apps have greater life satisfaction and wellbeing than do single people on dating apps. Users of dating apps are exposed to something known in philosophy as the ‘tyranny of choice’, the abovementioned conundrum of too many potential partners leading to an infinite expectation of better and better every time.
What does this all mean? There is a danger that, when people actually do begin a relationship to which they wish to commit, the normalisation of short-term, emotionally-void relationships will lead to an inability – or even unwillingness – to patch things up when things go awry. After all, in the age of quickfire happiness, why waste time flogging a dead horse when an even better (and, one might daresay, less needy) partner may be just a swipe away? This state of affairs is not only conducive to a path away from a monogamous lifestyle, but a path to even thinking of monogamy as boring, fuddy-duddy, unmodern – the adjectives go on.
Seeing as dating apps will be around indefinitely, it leaves me as a matchmaker unsure of what the love lives of tomorrow will look like. That said, two things give me hope. One: there really is no substitute for the feeling of a genuine human connection. Two: the fact that you have found and read this article shows that there is hope still for long-term romance – you may just need to look a little beyond your phone screen.
If you are in need of a little help with your love life, and the issues raised in this article resonate with you, why not consider the services of a professional in the love industry? At The Vida Consultancy, the relationships and marriages (and occasional babies!) that have come from our service do the talking. We provide clients with a unique approach, combining psychological principles and assessments with character-driven profiling, creating a personable and warm framework. A matchmaker is a friend, a concierge, a therapist, a coach, a counsellor, a confidante, a person who can make your dreams come true, a person who can help heal that broken heart, and a person who can find you that special someone like no-one else can.