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OPINION: Dating during the digital age

Generation Z and Millennials have seemingly found love through apps, but is swiping the best way to find a mate?

A person feels overwhelmed with the current dating scene that is plagued by apps and technology. According to Pew Research Center, about 53% of people under 30 have used a dating app or site. // Illustration by Tallie Johnson

Since Tinder hit app stores in late 2013, dating apps have completely revolutionized how younger generations find love — but are they enjoying the technology-dominant dating landscape?  

In a poll on The Front’s Instagram, 95% of those surveyed said they would prefer to meet someone outside of a dating app. Yet, when asked how often people are going on dates outside of dating apps, 47% said never, 49% said sometimes and only 4% said a lot. Clearly, there is a significant disconnect between desires and actions when it comes to online dating. 

In this new age of dating, I’ve realized that many Gen-Zers — myself included — haven’t been “forced” to figure out the dating scene without technology. 

For me, it was around late middle-school age when “like-liking” someone started to really mean something. But instead of actually going out on dates, relationship statuses were defined by being on each other's Snapchat best friends lists or having the name of your “bae” in your Instagram bio. 

Now, when friends or I mention we're going on dates, the immediate assumption is that you met on an app, with the first question being, “Can I see their profile?!” Opinions of the match are made based on five photos and a short bio, all before the date even happens. 

When speaking with friends, we all often said that we use Tinder, Bumble and Hinge like a game or a time-waster, similar to how we use TikTok or Instagram. This seems to be a common experience among dating app users.

A study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that half of the dating app users surveyed were not interested in meeting offline and that these mismatched intentions can lead to difficulties when trying to start a relationship. 

So, whenever we open Tinder – the app used by most U.S. adults according to Pew Research Center – should we even bother with intentions of “finding the one”? Is it better to approach dating more casually?

Marlon Familton is a family and relationship counselor at Bellevue Family Counseling. Familton has been working in the area of relationships for 16 years. In an email interview, he said the “swipe-ability” of people can put a lot of pressure on first impressions and this action has been shown to burn through our dopamine.

“This is an addictive behavior that we crave, which has nothing to do with the person, dating or building a relationship,” Familton said. “If the person we finally land on and meet doesn't give us that surge of dopamine, it might be a letdown and not motivate us to truly consider getting to know someone.”

So, at its core, does the new generation’s search for love simply burn down to chemicals? Does this new age leave any room for the romance we pine for, also often as a result of our social media consumption? 

The disconnect between wanting to find a partner offline and the reality of finding one online makes me wonder if romantic connections are missing from this loss of real-life interactions in terms of dating.

The influx of technology has changed so much of how we communicate, including when it comes to dating, according to Familton. When trying to form a relationship from an app, users might experience more difficulties figuring out the best methods to communicate. 

Deciphering what and when to read through the lines can be exhausting and taxing. “Different expectations that aren't communicated can lead to early disappointment in a new relationship,” Familton said. 

This isn’t to say that dating apps are bad. Dating apps do allow you to find more fish in the sea, and more and more people are finding their partners on an app. 

Still, it’s good to remind yourself that oftentimes people are different than they appear to be online. Someone who might be great at communicating openly through text might struggle when doing the same in person, according to Familton.

While it might be good to take a break from swiping on Tinder, Bumble or whatever app rolls out next, and instead try and meet someone through friends or from your day-to-day life, ultimately what I’ve found is that, whether you find your “soulmate” online or IRL, communication is key.

If you're scared to enter this new age of dating, remember you're not alone. Trust your instincts, have an open mind and give yourself the time and grace you need to find that special someone.

Tallie Johnson

Tallie Johnson (she/her) is the opinions and DIO editor for The Front this quarter. She is majoring in journalism with a public relations focus. Tallie enjoys covering arts and entertainment, bringing attention to nonprofits, and sharing her opinion on everything and anything. In her free time she spends time with friends, family, and her many animals.

You can contact her at

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