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Editor's note: This deep dive was originally published on Valentine's Day, 2019.

The gamification of courtship has gone global, from viral matchmaker shows in China to Tinder users who don't stop swiping even after finding love.

The big picture: Apps are the new norm in dating. But the hyper-personalized and endless choices enabled by technology may actually be making it more difficult to meet “the one.”

Gamification is now built into dating:

  • TV series like "The Bachelor," China's "If You Are the One" and Britain's "Love Island" have played off cultural courting traditions to create popular, dramatic and competitive game shows.
  • In apps, the format of swiping can intensify pleasurable chemical reactions in the brain, and the “infinite scroll” persuades users to continue swiping into perpetuity.
  • With almost endless options for partners, dating has become about "fast sex, slow love," Helen Fisher, chief scientific adviser for Match.com told Axios.
"The mechanics of the swipe feature: It's fun, it's a yes or no game."
— Justin McLeod, CEO and founder of the dating app Hinge

By the numbers: Millennials spend 10 hours per week on dating apps, according to Badoo, the world’s most popular dating platform with more than 400 million users in 190 countries.

  • And almost one in six singles (15%) say they feel addicted to the process of looking for a date, per a 2017 Match survey.

Why it matters: Part of playing the game is to make yourself as desirable as possible, which can lead to high, unmet expectations.

  • "We’re showing people this near perfect version of ourselves. It is highly tailored," Ohio State University's Jesse Fox told Axios. "You build up your hopes and expectations and then you meet — and it's awkward."
  • Many dating app executives who spoke with Axios are wary to call the platforms a game. "People are trying to maximize to find the ideal," Bumble's in-house sociologist, Jessica Carbino, suggests, "which is the sort of market nature of love."
  • "People are able to go on more dates, find more people and, as a result, they're actually waiting longer to get married than ever before, but they're also, I think, choosing the best partner for them," McLeod said.

The bottom line: In 2017, 39% of U.S. heterosexual relationships and 65% of same-sex relationships began online. And apps aren't going away.

  • For some, "it's a form of work, not just a game anymore," says Stephanie Tong of Wayne State University.
  • A cottage industry of services to write profiles, tend to matches and get swipes is popping up. Some, like Relationship Hero, have coaches around the world, available 24/7 to text, call or even video chat through a user's dating woes.
  • Now, Tong says, it isn't about projecting confidence face-to-face but about how to write a fancier profile.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Blockbuster Supreme Court day

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will give conservatives a lot of what they want — but not quite everything.

Driving the news: It voted 9-0 to carve out religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies have a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. But it also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act, saying Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit.

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
54 mins ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair discusses the bills to bust up Big Tech

House lawmakers last week introduced a series of five bipartisan bills designed to curb the power of Big Tech, targeting Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google in all but name.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the House antitrust committee and a sponsor on most of the bills, to learn how he plans to get these measures over the finish line. The congressman from Rhode Island also faces a slate of other priorities and in the wake of a spending package to bolster the U.S. tech sector’s ability to compete with China.