Online dating apps are actually some kind of disaster

When he came to talk about the harmful effects of social media on children, I felt like the character of Will Smith in I robot: “Why is no one listening to me?” After writing a book on girls and social media in 2016, I got a lot of loathing from people who accused me of being a Luddite or of causing moral panic. That changed over time, once a deluge of studies sadly linked girls’ social media use with increasing rates of anxiety and depression, loss of self-esteem, and even loss of self-esteem. suicide. Today, I don’t think anyone would say that social media is safe and important to children and teens.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the same about another tech trend: online dating. We are here in the techlash – there are government investigations and media attention on everything from Big Tech’s spread of disinformation to its weakening of democracy. And yet there is usually still a practical, if not downright festive, approach to Big Dating – like Tinder, Match, OkCupid, Bumble, Badoo, and other dating service giants, which now occupy a multi-billion dollar industry. and have hundreds of millions of users around the world.

As Facebook and Google face relentless scrutiny, Big Dating companies are coming away with an outrageous lack of accountability. Perhaps this is because politicians and editors are afraid to sound like “old people” or prudes by wondering what the young are doing. (I was accused of being both when I wrote a viral story in 2015 who was talking about misogyny in the culture of dating apps.) Or maybe it’s because the users who suffer the most harm on these platforms aren’t straight white males. After all, it is women and girls who suffer most from online dating abuse, as well as people of color and those in the LGBTQ community. Could these biases explain the blinders?

These are questions that I have asked myself over the past year as the media continued to produce stories about how online dating, which jumped during the pandemic, would have saved people from loneliness and helped them cope during quarantine. But bringing back my new book Nothing Personal: My Secret Life in the Inferno Dating App, it quickly became clear to me that reports of romantic video chats and socially distant dates were far from the reality of the situation on the ground. In fact, the way Big Dating has taken advantage of its newly captive audience – people who feel they can’t get away with anything other than its platforms – amounts to an object lesson in disaster capitalism.

Over the past eight years, I have spoken to hundreds of people about their experiences with dating apps. And the online dating culture has not become any less impersonal since the pandemic, according to the sources I spoke to, mostly women between the ages of 25 and 60. no less objectified by many men on these platforms. They were always asked to send nudes by guys who made little effort to get to know them, and they were always asked if they just wanted to hook up, regardless of the danger of contracting coronavirus: “Quarantine and cold? “

“Quarantined with my longtime girlfriend,” said a Tinder profile of a male user someone sent me, “but who knows how long we can last. pleases.

This type of occasional misogyny is ubiquitous on dating sites, as if outright harassment. A 2020 study by Pew reported that 57% of female dating users aged 18 to 34 said someone sent them an unsolicited sexually explicit message or picture. Six in 10 women under 35 said someone continued to contact them after saying they weren’t interested, and 44% said someone on a dating site called them shocking.

People of color also regularly experience vile forms of harassment on dating sites. They see profiles riddled with racist statements in the form of “preferences”, such as “No Blacks” or “No Indians, No Asians, No Africans”. A Cornell Study 2018 exposed racist biases in the algorithms used by dating sites, which she said allow “users who harbor intimate biases, consciously or not”, to “continue to make intimate decisions informed by those biases” – reinforcing probably racism in real life. Meanwhile, trans people are continually reporting that they are banned from dating sites just because they are trans.

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