How tech bros ruined dating for young people

How tech bros ruined dating for young people, by Mary Linge.

Millennials aged 18 to 30 spend an average of 10 hours a week flicking through the portraits and profiles on sites like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and Hinge. …

[There has been] a seismic social shift that psychologists are just beginning to grapple with.

“We evolved in the context of small groups,” says David Buss, a University of Texas evolutionary psychologist interviewed in the film.

Early humans encountered just a few dozen potential mates over a lifetime. But modern life — and especially Internet dating — provides an endless parade of choices, which “triggers the short-term mating psychology in a way that never would have been triggered ancestrally,” Buss adds.

In other words, it encourages hookups.

“Hookup culture did not start with dating apps,” Sales says. “But online dating has weaponized hookup culture and has sent it into warp speed.”

And even though 80 percent of dating-app users say they turn to them in hopes of finding a long-term partner, Sales says, the apps instead reward behaviors that undermine and, eventually, destroy relationships.

The fault lies in their very design, which exploits our brain chemistry through a calculated program of intermittent rewards that arrive regularly but unpredictably, just like the occasional jackpots of a slot machine.

“We absolutely added these almost game-like elements, where you feel like you’re being rewarded,” Tinder’s Badeen tells Sales in the film. “You’re excited to see who the next person is, or you’re excited to see, did I get the match?” …

Badeen based the function on the theories of Harvard behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner, whose experiments with pigeons proved that even birds can be transformed into compulsive gamblers, addicted to the high of occasional machine-driven winnings, if the rewards are doled out on what he called a “variable ratio schedule.”

“Having unpredictable, yet frequent, rewards is the best way to motivate somebody,” Badeen says in the film.

“It’s called gamification, and it is designed to be addictive,” Sales adds. “It’s explicitly modeled to control behavior.” …

Finding a long-term partner “may be what the user wants, but it’s not the goal of these platforms. The goal is to keep you swiping, keep you coming back for more” — an urge the apps can monetize by offering premium features and added access, for a price. …

“All the guys, they’re not looking for s–t but hookups,” Bree insists in the film. “And like quick, that-night hookups … for guys, it’s like a catalog for them.” …

It led almost inexorably to the “Barbie and Ken culture” that social scientists see as the norm on dating apps aimed at heterosexual users.

Both sexes “rely on gender stereotypes, leading many women to sexualize themselves and many men to present themselves in a very stereotypically masculine way,” Sales says.

Fish pics, for example. The photo of a young man hoisting a just-caught sailfish or trout is a common Tinder trope.

“Literally, it’s saying, ‘I will get food for you,’?” Sales says. “Or they’ll post a picture of themselves at the top of a mountain — that says ‘I can climb, I am strong.’ Or torso shots at the gym.”

Women, in turn, feel pressure to project a veneer of ultra-feminine sexuality.

“We got the bombshell bra on, face full of makeup, the weave or the wig,” Bree says in the doc. “And when all that comes off, when they see the real you, then they’re not even attracted to you anymore.” …

“The makeup industry has exploded, by the way, and also plastic surgery — plastic surgeons have young women coming in saying ‘I want to look good in selfies.’?” [says Millennial Dylan].

An August study released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons noted a sharp rise in procedures for girls under age 19 — tying that stat to the fact that the average millennial will take more than 25,000 selfies in his or her lifetime.

“Now dating is based entirely on pictures, not just on dating apps but also on Instagram, on Snapchat, multiple platforms,” Sales says.