Are dating apps stopping people settling down?

Dating apps are now seen as the fastest way to get a date. Are people addicted to choice and afraid to settle down, asks Deirdre Reynolds, or are they just having fun while waiting to meet someone special.

WHEN Vanity Fair recently claimed Tinder had created a generation of commitment phobes, Twitter users certainly weren’t sitting on the fence.

Swiping right on the viral story, ‘Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse’ by Nancy Jo Sales, are those who agree that the dating app only encourages people to hook up — not settle down.

Swiping left, are the Tinderellas who still hold out hope that one day their prince will geolocate.

Since launching in 2012, an estimated 50m men and women worldwide have downloaded the matchmaking app — around 150,000 of them in Ireland, according to Ipsos MRBI. So is the end of the committed relationship nigh — or is the smartphone service just the latest way to find your app-ily ever after?

Top Irish matchmaker Avril Mulcahy meets plenty of 30-somethings who have yet to meet someone special, but believes this ’paradox of choice’ has left Ireland’s singletons rudderless when it comes to relationships.

“There is definitely a problem with our generation right now,” she says. “People are addicted to choice, and forget the end goal of finding a loving, long-lasting relationship.

“I meet lots of guys and girls in their late 30s for whom the penny is finally starting to drop. Suddenly, there’s this mad dash to try and find someone.

“Tinder is a great tool for meeting people,” adds the author of dating guide Go Get Him, “and it’s fine to be having fun multi-dating in your 20s.

“However, you need to keep an eye on the end goal — or you could end up missing out on something more meaningful.”

In an age of FOMO (fear of missing out), however, is it any wonder that the next swipe is always more appealing?

“Let’s say that everybody from the age of 21-35 is putting themselves about on Tinder,” hypothesises Tony Moore, psychotherapist and relationships counsellor with Relationships Ireland. “Then when they get to 35 they decide that they want to settle down and have children.

“The problem is they’ve spent so long moving from date to date that they don’t actually know how to commit to one person.

“Relationships and marriage have become completely devalued now,” he continues. “It’s almost like entertainment.

“But you can’t expect somebody who’s just spent the last decade moving on every couple of weeks to suddenly stay in a relationship for the next 30 years.”

As a member of the Tinder Generation, 31-year-old Siobhan, a mature student from Dublin, reveals she’s happy enough with Mr Right for the Night — for now.

“Between going back to college and working part-time, I don’t really have time for a serious relationship at the minute,” she says. “At the same time, if I met someone great online, I wouldn’t rule it out either.

“People think that Tinder is all about meeting up with random strangers for sex. No more than when you meet someone in a pub though, it’s pretty easy to weed out the guys who are only after one thing.”

“Ultimately, of course I’d love to meet someone special,” adds Siobhan, who’s been using the social networking app for around a year. “Although I’m not sure how I’d feel about telling my kids that I met their dad on Tinder.

For newly single Michelle, a 32-year-old care worker from Kildare, Tinder has helped to swipe away her tears, at least.

“After five years together, I sort of assumed my boyfriend and I would get engaged eventually,” she says. “So when he broke up with me by text earlier this summer instead, I was devastated.

“Some of my friends are on Tinder, and suggested giving it a go.

“Although I’m not interested in dating right now, and haven’t swiped right on anyone yet, it’s good to know there are lots of eligible guys out there.”

As the hashtag #SwipedRight trends on Twitter, couples around the globe have been sharing how they found love on the so-called ‘hook-up’ site.

Responding to the Vanity Fair article meanwhile, Tinder — founded by Justin Mateen and Sean Rad — hit back against its anti-monogamy image: “You could have talked about how everyone on Tinder is authenticated through Facebook… Or you could have talked about how everyone on Tinder is on an equal playing field.

“Instead, your article took an incredibly biased view… But it’s not going to dissuade us from building something that is changing the world.”

Certainly doomsday warnings over the silencing of wedding bells don’t seem to ring true on this side of the Atlantic, at least.

Irish brides and grooms may be older than ever before, at 33 and 35, respectively, but the latest CSO figures show that 44,090 of them still tied the knot last year — 2,730 more than in 2013.

“People still want to commit,” reckons Naoise McNally of online wedding magazine OneFabDay.com. “They’re just playing the field a bit longer first.

“Tinder didn’t create promiscuity, it just enables it. If people want to go out and have one night stands, they’re going to do it whether or not dating apps like these exist.

“During the recession, some people may have held off because of the cost,” she concedes, “but there’s no dampening down of the desire to get married. Now with equal marriage, it’s only going to become even more popular.”

As the recent Ashley Madison hacking scandal shows, however, saying ‘I Do’ doesn’t always mean saying ‘I Don’t’ to dating apps.

Just three weeks after controversial wedding show on Channel 4 Married at First Sight this year, Kate Stewart and Jason Knowles parted company after the groom was discovered on Tinder, backing up research from GlobalWebIndex that revealed that 42% of Tinder users are either married or in a relationship.

Here at home, thousands of others are set to try their luck at finding a husband or wife the more traditional way at the annual Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival taking place until October 4.

“Older friends of mine still talk about their dancehall days, where women stood on one side of the room and men —who stood on the other — had to cross the dancefloor to ask them to dance before a courtship began,” says psychotherapist Michael Fitzgerald of CounsellingWaterford.com. “In the ’80s and ’90s, we had the slow set, which was killed by the rave generation.

“Now we have the internet, where there are sites for all sorts of meet-ups, from one night stands to long-term relationships.

“Early dates are often dinner and a couple of bottles of wine, followed by the journey to ‘your place or mine?’ Building a relationship like this in your late 20s or early 30s can mean that once the mortgage is under control and the kids are at school, you suddenly look over at the person you once found so attractive and feel real resentment.”

Like Millie Mackintosh, 26, and Professor Green, 31, who reportedly attended couples therapy last year just months after exchanging vows in 2013, RelationshipIreland.com’s Tony Moore revealed that an increasing number of young Irish couple are searching for a ‘remedy’ too.

“We are seeing a lot more people in the 25 to 35 age group for sex and relationship therapy,” he says. “So a lot of these people do want to settle down with someone, they just don’t know how.

“As a society, I think we need to re-evaluate our idea of commitment. For the Tinder generation, it may be a case of saying, ‘I want to commit to you for the next ten years’, and after that, to renegotiate.”

Twenty years after protesters warned that saying ‘hello divorce’ meant waving ‘bye bye daddy’, Ireland has the third lowest divorce rate in the world, with just one in ten marriages here ending in separation or divorce, according to a recent EU-wide survey.

Two decades hence, matchmaker Avril Mulcahy predicts fears over the effect of Tinder on relationships will prove similarly unfounded. “You don’t have to be married to build a loving relationship so long as you’re both on the same page, it’s fine.

“At the end of the day, we’re all looking for a little stability in our lives. If you’re seeing someone and you’re sleeping with them, whatever label you put on it, the fact is you’re in a relationship.”

Three months after locking lips with someone she met on Tinder, marketing executive Jennifer, 32, from Cavan has just deleted the dating app from her iPhone — and this time hopes it’s for good. “The whole point of going on Tinder is to come off it eventually,” she reckons. “I don’t think this generation is more commitment phobic; I just don’t think we’re willing to settle for second best.

“Millions of people use dating apps now — so it’s bound to take a bit of time to find ‘The One!”


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