Love in the Time of Apps

Since its inception, online dating is an avenue that has attracted, if not outright derision from many, suspicion at the very least. Meeting strangers online has been something we’ve been taught to avoid at all costs. The whole premise of shows like “Dateline NBC” is built on the idea that the person you’re chatting with online might in fact be some sort of sexual deviant.

Now, in more enlightened times, online dating has not only become an acceptable social behavior, but something that one person in every 10 will try. And with this change in dating orthodoxy comes a market willing to sell. Gone are the days where online dating meant messaging strangers in chat rooms until one person worked up the nerve to exchange emails. Like most things now, online dating has become app-based.

Thanks to technological developments over the past decade (namely the iPhone, which made apps popular), online dating has become as simple as swiping your finger across the screen. There is a plethora of dating apps on the market right now, many catering to specific tastes or situations. As more and more people enter the world of online dating, more and more apps are beginning to cater to them.

It shouldn’t be surprising that like other markets, app developers are starting to create dating apps that cater to specific demographics. Of course there are mainstays like Tinder and OKCupid, but more options are opening up for more specific audiences. For example, Hater is a dating app that lets you match with people who hate the same things as you do. Started by a comedian, Hater works similarly to apps like Tinder, with the exception that you’ll be matched up not based on personality, but based on shared mutual hatred. The idea makes a certain amount of sense. Love and hatred are two very powerful, visceral emotions.

Glimmer is a dating app made for people with disabilities. Along with listing personality traits and likes and dislikes, Glimmer encourages its users to specify what disabilities, if any, they have. It’s architect, Geoff Anderson, created the app when he realized his disabled brother was having trouble using the more mainstream dating apps.

Divide and conquer is the big trend in dating apps now, with creators catering to any subgroup they can get. There are even dating apps for certain political factions. TrumpSingles is a dating site that, as the name implies, is meant for people who support Donald Trump. Though there was little traffic for the majority of 2016, Trump’s unexpected win of the U.S. presidential election attracted many new users to the site. It now has enough of a user base to cover the cost of running it.

So does the way we date change how we view relationships? The answer to this is tricky, but can be summed up as “kind of.” Using dating apps to find love can actually increase one’s sense of loneliness. As more and more apps come out, it’s possible that we can use them as coping mechanisms for feelings of isolation. Instead of seeking professional help from a licensed individual, we seek companionship online.

The wide market for dating apps is a good thing. Increasing diversity not only provides healthy competition, but also allows for normally marginalized groups to find a chance at love.

But like we learned as kids, meeting people online is still a tricky business.