Imagine a world where the only way to meet someone is through your own offline social networks and local venues. A world where people meet potential partners through established social networks, whether through school, work, church, sports clubs, or other social groups. And, when meeting someone in this way, people are each held accountable for their behaviour. If one person behaves poorly on the date or after, others in the social group would know about it. Hard to imagine that was our reality only 9 years ago, right! But the problem then was that singles were frustrated at the lack of options for potential partners and felt their own networks were too limiting.

Enter Tinder and Hinge. In 2012, they both launched with a purpose to help singles connect with people who they typically may never come across. Bumble followed in 2014, putting a novel spin on how these dating apps connected people by allowing females to make the first move. A bold idea in what is traditionally a ‘male’ role. Thousands more followed, and today, there is a dating app for pretty much every niche you can think of.

However, here comes the paradox. The rise of these dating apps inadvertently ushered in a new, dystopian romantic landscape in which low-quality interactions resulted from an algorithm and meaningful relationships were seldom formed. Instead of offering real, human connection with a single swipe, they simply turned up the dial on hook-up culture.

Now dating apps are the most common way for people to meet. However, users feel like they are being held hostage and don’t have many other options than to be on these digital platforms. The dating space has been gamified, like when you’re gambling, your dopamine levels spike with every match, and you think, “Maybe if I just keep swiping, I’ll get another one.” It’s kinda like Netflix. You spend more time checking out the other options than watching the show.

David Buss is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas in Austin. He specialises in the evolution of human sexuality and says, “Apps like Tinder and OkCupid give people the impression that there are thousands or millions of potential mates out there. One dimension of this is the impact it has on men’s psychology. When there is a surplus of women, or a perceived surplus of women, the whole mating system tends to shift towards short-term dating. Marriages become unstable. Divorces increase. Men don’t have to commit, so they pursue a short-term mating strategy. Men are making that shift, and women are forced to go along with it to mate at all.”

The ‘throwaway culture’ that we’ve developed with clothes and food has now extended to people as well. Users of dating apps have so much perceived choice, more than ever before, leading to a superficial breadth of human interaction rather than a meaningful depth of connection.

This has led to a new problem that needs to be addressed. How do we get people connecting again in a meaningful way? How do we take the online back offline? Well, aside from <insert shameless plug for Ziinkle, which will bring the dating revolution we all so desperately need>, there are a few things you can consciously do when on dating apps: