I am sitting in a bar. Shiny copper spotlights adorn the ceiling, tan oak wood covers the floor, and the whole place is lit in a dark yellowish hue, giving it a swanky feel. I glance back and forth at the glass doors in front of me. Tiny bubbles rapidly rise to the top of my pint. A sign of exciting times to come – hopefully. Could this be the one? My date enters. Thank god, I haven’t been catfished (when one poses as someone they are not).
After an awkward hug, we get to talking. I make a casual joke about her being five minutes late. She laughs. We carry on with more small talk. How long have you lived in the area? Any brothers or sisters? Any embarrassing drunk stories? Two drinks later, we leave the bar. As we leave, she grabs me on the arm and commands in a tipsy tone, ‘So, where are we going next?’ I suggest my place. Her eyes light up, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ Thirty minutes later, we are in bed having sex.
The game has changed. Seven million UK residents now use dating apps. More and more people are having one-night stands and taking more lovers in their lifetime. What are the consequences? I didn’t call the girl back. The chase was too easy.
For those unfamiliar with dating apps, you download an app on your phone, create a profile, add a few pictures, answer a few questions about yourself, maybe put a few quirky lines describing yourself, and then off you go.
Pictures of nearby young women (up to a radius of 100 miles) appear on your phone; you swipe right if you like what you see and left if you don’t. To match with someone, they also have to swipe right. It is a cruel and quick way to judge if you would sleep with that person, based entirely on looks.
There are other dating apps for different purposes. Some are for men and women in their 30s, others for the 40s. One tracks people who walk past you in the street and you can ‘like’ them if they have the app. Others are more refined. They are more rigorous in the questions they ask, going into religious beliefs, favourite hobbies, political inclinations (I suggest giving this one a miss if you are a Brexiteer or Trump fan – social justice warriors unfortunately litter the dating space – I wonder why?), with random set questions like, who would be your favourite dinner guest? Name two truths and one lie? And so on.
There is a strange and distinct divide with individuals who use these apps. Women looking to ‘hook up’ write a cryptic but obvious phrase in their bio, ‘Looking for a good time not a long time’, amounting to something just short of a prostitution advert. Others write the exact opposite. ‘Looking for a genuine and real connection’. They want a relationship, a partner in crime.
According to a recent study, one in five relationships now start online. But the other side of dating apps is a dark and promiscuous world. To put it in perspective, Generation Z (those born after 1995) have had nearly as many sexual partners as Baby Boomers. Gen Z already average eight while Boomers average ten and a half. The bonking epidemic is upon us.
It comes as no surprise. When you use these apps, it is difficult to personalise whom you are talking to. You have a picture and a short description, nothing more. You know nothing of their life, friends, or family. They can make up anything they want. When you meet, the encounter seems so forced as though it is a transaction, especially when you meet under the pretence of, ‘Let’s have a good time not a long time’. The object is clear. If for whatever reason the encounter is too awkward, you move on to your next ‘match’ (it’s normal to have a few going at the same time). ‘Cashier number four please…’ as the computerised local Post Office speaker announces to queuing customers.
Falling in love can be the most magical experience. That moment when you and your partner’s eyes lock and the surrounding world mutes; you have her and she has you. But there comes a risk with this kind of emotional connection; you are vulnerable. Dating apps in contrast do away with the risk of getting hurt. You can experience all the passionate intimacy of a relationship with none of the burdens; not answering her texts back in time, arguing over your alleged flirting with someone else, or failing to acknowledge her feelings.
However there are consequences to this digital pursuit of pleasure. Can you fall in love with a woman who has slept with ten men? Maybe 20? Even 30? Does it matter at all? I can already hear the feminists banging at my door for daring to ask such a question. Yet, statistics show that sleeping with a considerable amount of people affects our happiness in relationships.
According to the Institute for Family Studies, 74 per cent more men who take just one sexual partner over a lifetime are likely to say they are ‘very happy’ in their relationship. While, at the other end of the spectrum, men who take over 21+ sexual partners over their lifetime report to be ‘very happy’ 61 per cent of the time. There are exceptions. Yet the temptation to indulge in a night of sweaty ecstasy has never been stronger, knowing that it is all in reach of your phone. Jane Eyre’s love of blind and scarred Mr Rochester makes her a rare breed in our mobile phone world.
Are a good portion of us millennials and Gen Z then doomed for marital despair? Or love? It might well be the case. I recall one experience using the app abroad. There we are in a bar, the conversation limited to little more than one you would have with an acquaintance, let alone with a friend.
Hours later, we are lying in bed after doing the deed. She whispers in my hear, ‘I have to say that was one of the better experiences I’ve had on (whatever dating app it was: Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, Happn)’. Rather
impressed with myself, I reply, ‘Well, thank you. But how many “experiences” are we talking about here?’ ‘I don’t know, about 40’, she says. The sweet taste of self-congratulation in my mouth turns to sour milk.
The fact that she so casually admitted this left me perplexed. But who am I to judge? Dating apps have not only made the act of dating a hobby but the act of sex a hobby as well. The days when sex meant something, what women made men work hard for, along with flowers, chocolates, poems, candlelit dinners, long walks, and evidence of clear and consistent interest, not just in their body but in their person, all seem over.
More than that, there is limited incentive to get into a relationship with someone who so readily has sex with someone they’ve only known for a few hours. Can you trust such a person to stay loyal? Should I book an appointment with my GP?
Jake Stark writes for the Salisbury Review.