Dating Apps Are Pulling New Tricks — Is It Enough to Retain the Disillusioned Dating Pool?

You Can Date Better
6 min readSep 26, 2023

The dating scene is changing fast and even the tech giants are scared. Can the apps save face?

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Short answer? Sure, a few.

But an extraordinary number of daters that have spent years on the apps are getting wise to the true problem with the gamification of finding love. Millennials especially are ready to settle down and get serious, and the apps aren’t cutting it for that purpose.

Overall, users are dropping and prices are rising. It’s kind of a wild time. That won’t stop the apps from trying, though.

Tinder has removed social media handles in attempt to cut down on influencer abuse. They’ve introduced a $500 tier that promises enhanced searching and matching. Ah, yes. That will totally solve the problem.

Bumble just released new community guidelines that attempt to crack down on ghosting. That way, everyone can police each other’s behavior and feel absolution for their dating sins. Wow, this will totally get people to actually go on dates with each other now.

The League just launched GoalMate, assuming people just need to align on their goals a little more and then they will find the right people. You can actually drop thousands on this app to flaunt your expensive LinkedIn-based profile with career mindset and… find love that way?

To boot, everyone and their mother is convinced AI will make dating apps better. I suppose their thinking is that we just need AI to match people better on the apps and the user experience will be better. It’s the matching that’s off, not the users — they just need the right features. Some apps are even convinced AI can find your perfect physical match, banking on the idea that physical attraction is the spark that we’ve been missing online. (I cannot think of anything further from what we need.)

The major players are trying hard to convince daters they can make the apps better and make people on their apps behave better, or look better, or feel better. Frankly, it feels like too little, too late.

Daters have wised up and are heading off the apps as fast as they can when an effective alternative shows up. That is — the daters who still actually have the courage to go on a real date with a real person (I’ll get to that courage piece in another post). It sounds like a few apps might be heading in that direction as well, adding in-person experiences to their arsenal. I’ll be very curious to see how that pans out. Anything to get people to go on real dates and I’m in.

Speed dating and matchmaking are on the rise and for good reason. They get you to the date. However, from what I’m seeing with clients and daters I speak to daily, the pervasive behaviors that have come from online dating culture have seeped into these spaces as well. I’m not so sure many daters who leave the apps will suddenly find themselves at peace.

Daters are in crisis because as a whole, they are seeking a narrative they’ve created in their minds from seeing what they think are their available choices. They have been slowly persuaded to change their mindset about what dating and falling in love is, based on profile criteria and whatever assumptions one might make from that.

Some of the very same app behaviors that daters don’t like are following them into other spaces. Expectations are at an all time high and people are now ready to “swipe” on someone after a first in-person date for the craziest of reasons.

It seems that many are waiting for their person to arrive, manifested by them in perfect form, if only they wish for it hard enough...or swipe enough on the inadequate profiles. Never mind the hard work to understand compatibility and how to navigate areas of difference.

So, what’s the problem and how do we solve it? Is it that the apps need better tech? New features? That they need to indulge the users more? Indulge them less? Punish bad behavior? Be more exclusive?

At this point, no. The damage is done and I don’t believe fancy tech can bridge the divide that exists between online profile hunting and true heart-to-heart connection.

The real problem is a human behavior problem. We’re running low on the patience and curiosity needed to know people on an intimate level.

Long-term love is based on core values and core values take time to see. They are witnessed by actions over time. We need to see our dates in more and better contexts than a profile, a few quippy texts, and coffee for an hour. We definitely need to look past first-date “romantic chemistry”.

The damage from getting stuck online has jumped off the screen and into daters’ minds and hearts at this point. There’s also the argument that our bodies cannot be disconnected from our brains in such an extreme way when it comes to choosing a life partner. The reason we need to move to the in-person experience as soon as possible is that the longer people spend on a screen, the more they think they can control the in-person experience. That is a fallacy. You can’t hack the system. You have to just get to the date. The information you absolutely need to seal the deal is in person.

What does this mean for the folks leaving the apps and making the brave choice to get to the date another way? It means serious mindset work and a conscious undoing of instant gratification behavior created by gamification. This work can be done while still on the apps as well, but it’s much harder to maintain.

I believe we can do this, and many daters are starting to undo the harm caused by getting stuck on the apps too long. That’s also why date coaching is on the rise — people need real help with a reset.

In some ways, I’m bummed. Dating websites and apps were never more than a means to get singles to find each other. I found success on them by staying true to the mission — meeting people, staying curious, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

And, hilariously — online platforms created the ghosting problem they are now striving to address. It’s a behavior borne out of people being able to use a never ending funnel of options, treating others as disposable crash test date dummies without social consequence.

My advice? Get your cute butts to the date. If you can do it with the apps, go for it. Maybe some of those new features will be pretty fun. If you can’t, try speed dating. If you have the money, throw some matchmaking in there. While you’re at it, get yourself a date coach and get your mindset in check.

The more important thing is to flex your dating skills in-person and see people holistically again, have conversations that are about curiosity, fun and discovery, and remember that one bad experience doesn’t spell disaster for the future. Only time will tell if your dates are a good match, so hold your hormone horses for just a second and enjoy the journey of dating, knowing you’re doing it the right way and making choices that make sense.

Change the way you date. Get a coach. Get dating.

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You Can Date Better

Writing/content curation by Carrie Prince, founder & boss lady behind YouCanDateBetter.com — coaching & consulting for the current online dating landscape.