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.
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