Do Dating Apps take away the naturalness of human encounters?

Massimo’s and Constanza’s talk in the morning invited us to move our thoughts on a completely new level of abstraction: How can we relate our topic of Dating Apps to living root bridges? For sure, this sounds like an idiotic idea at first. However, when reflecting and brainstorming on that we actually found some parallels! When talking about those living root bridges Constanza and Massimo referred to artefactualness and naturalness – phenomena that can be transferred to Tinder and Co. as well.

Essentially the formation of human relationships is supposed to be something that evolves naturally; something that in the end opens up our inner core, our natural personality to someone else. However, it seems like online Dating Apps – merely working via superficial mechanisms like visual attraction – totally abolish this sense of naturalness. Can we still talk about a natural getting to know if we are allocated to each other based on artificial machine algorithms? If we try to create a desirable image of ourselves on our Dating App profile that might have got nothing to do any more with who we really are? If the encounter happens in a virtual space far from face-to-face communication?

We doubt it. It rather seems as if Dating Apps move human relationships from a natural to an artificial level of communication. Today’s presentation left us with inspiring mind games and led us to also think about alternative ways of how Dating Apps organize and develop. How do technology and users interact in a way that new, alternative or unintended uses of Dating Apps arise?

After a joint discussion we in fact found some answers! When it comes to the non-intended use of Dating Apps, we concluded there’s a variety of them. One can download the App to boost one’s self-confidence after a difficult break-up, or perhaps to verify one’s attractiveness on the “market”. Alternatively, Dating Apps are often used for business or financial purposes. For instance, it is common to see professionals looking for collaborations, such as modeling or photographing through the Apps. Moreover, we also noticed  that some users intend to utilise the app in order to promote their businesses or raise money. There are also people who schedule dates with strangers in order to benefit from free meals or drinks. There are plenty of hidden opportunities on dating portals, that, even if foreseen, were not intended by the founders at all. 

Changing the perspective, we also focused on how the innovative technology itself can be used alternatively. We thought that the ”matching” system introduced by Tinder has potential to be utilised on a larger scale. The functionality that it  brings, namely matching individuals from different samples based on their preference, is an opportunity for other businesses. For instance, the market of self-employed cleaning staff or language tutors could benefit. Simple tagging their key characteristics such as skills, availability, and offer, allows for sorting through the huge supply of service. As a result the matching algorithm enables a quicker decision-making, by just presenting the offers that are relevant or of interest. Alternatively, we also discussed applications of matching in non-human environments such as tools for easy pet adoption.

Pet matching platform

Today’s reflections and discussions revealed that the technology of Dating Apps has much wider implications than expected – it cannot only shape human behavior but also gives rise to applications that go far beyond the initial functionality of dating. 

By Marielle, Martyna & Muriel