Why Does Dating Suck Right Now?

You're not the only one if you're feeling increasingly turned off by the apps.
Couple with a bottle of champagne
Photo: Uwe Krejci / Getty Images

It was early days, but Flo was feeling positive about Jack – a man she’d been seeing for three months. The pair met on Hinge, Flo swiping right after Jack’s pithy one-liners made her smile.

Their first date – a couple of drinks after work – had been the most fun she’d had in a while. The pair went on to meet twice a week afterwards: more drinks, dinners, movie nights – Jack even took Flo to a warehouse rave with his best friends. 


They never put a label on it – there didn’t seem to be a need to – but a flush would warm Flo’s cheeks whenever his name lit up her phone. That was until one day, Jack stopped texting. No explanation, no response: Flo had been blocked, with her WhatsApp messages to Jack now punctuated with a lonely grey tick.

“I was upset,” publicist Flo, 24, reflects, a year later. Like every dater in this piece, she’s speaking anonymously to protect her privacy. “But this sort of stuff happens all the time. I’ve been ghosted before and I’ll get ghosted again. But part of me thinks what’s the fucking point? It makes me just not want to bother with dating.”

Flo’s sentiments are echoed across the spectrum of singles who are feeling increasingly dejected and jaded in the arduous quest to find love. A 2022 US study showed four in five adults “experienced some degree of emotional fatigue” from online dating. Elsewhere, research from Hinge found 61 percent of their users find the modern dating process “overwhelming”.

It's something Jasmin, a 28-year-old writer, has sometimes felt over the last three years. Having met her previous two partners through school and work, she decided to try her luck with dating apps.

“I flip between an abundance and scarcity mindset,” she explains. “There’s times where I felt overwhelmed I’m matching with so many guys. It almost feels like a game. But then translating those matches into actual, decent dating experiences is so sparse I feel there’s nothing out there.”


Since the advent of Tinder in 2012, apps have vastly altered how we date. They’re certainly not going anywhere any time soon – 300 million people have a dating app profile, and come 2035, more people will have met their partner online than in real life.

“Dating apps changed the digital dating landscape due to the collection of convenient features they brought to the table, which I have called ‘intimacies of convenience,’” explains Dr Rachel Katz, a digital media sociologist at the University of Salford who researches dating apps. “They are often image-based, mobile, geolocative, use a swiping mechanism, and have a ‘consent to chat’ feature. People had an active role in choosing who they wanted to match with.

“People like the convenience these features enable. But at the same time, this convenience can also bring negative experiences: transactional language, ghosting and objectifying language. Moreover, there are fewer social ramifications to these behaviours on dating apps compared to real-life interactions - it’s possible that repeated negative experiences might lead to dating app fatigue.

“Decision fatigue, and the paradox of choice, may be part of what people find frustrating about dating apps.”

The convenience of having a vast number of connections may have come at a cost of the quality of communication between matches, adds psychotherapist and couple’s counsellor Hilda Burke.


“Dating apps make initial matches text-based,” she explains. “In his book Silent Messages, Professor Albert Mehrabian developed the theory that only 7 percent of meaning is communicated through what we say: 38 percent is through tone of voice, 55 percent is through body language. We are so text dependent on dating apps, we’re only getting about 7 percent of what that person means. It allows for ambiguity to develop.”

This widening canyon of uncertainty, and additional layers of grey area, may be contributing to “mismatched goals” between daters, adds Katz.

“People use dating apps for multiple reasons like dating app tourism, hooking up, chatting to combat loneliness, boosting self-esteem, and finding long-term partner,” she says. “Different mindsets, times, and spaces affect these goals of use. There’s also clashes over when to convey these goals, and how – hence ghosting, or having the conversation turn sexual too soon.”

But why the growing vocal backlash against dating culture now? Maybe a decade of exploring an increasingly vague hellscape has left singles exhausted and fed up, explains Jodie Cariss, therapist and founder of Self Space, a mental health service which runs regular Slow Dating events.

“The amount of immediate gratification and choice that’s available to people, alongside the distance that being behind an app gives us, makes the dating world much easier to hide in without investing too deeply in the human behind the apps,” she says. “We become more hidden and disconnected, and perhaps lonelier for it.”


For Flo, forging a connection in the texting preamble is her least favourite part of the modern dating process. “I feel like so much of the conversation is copy pasted, all the chat is the same,” she explains. “I’m not much of a texter myself. But when someone I’ve matched with doesn’t text me for a day, I just instantly think they’re just ghosting me.”

Ghosting is an increasingly common phenomenon. A study conducted this year by the University of Georgia found two in three people have ghosted someone they were dating – and been a victim of ghosting themselves. 

“It’s depressing that it feels almost flattering when someone is polite enough just to let you know they didn’t feel a spark,” Flo explains. “It feels like dating someone is like having a tab open, and people close that tab when they’re done. In a city like London, you’re unlikely to see a match again – there’s no repercussions. It makes me have my guard up from the start, and I keep my dates at an arms’ length.”

This lack of accountability isn’t relegated to straight dating: Dan, who has been single for four years, has seen an influx of “cruel” behaviour from guys he’s matched with.

“It’s almost as if people date for content now,” the author and broadcaster says. “I’ve seen people sharing just savage screenshots from Grindr on social media just for likes. I do think we need a huge ethics shift in dating. We’ve fallen down this ugly hole of treating people badly because we can. We need to remember we’re dating the person, not the phone number.”


Having had a sequence of poor dates, Flo has changed her priorities. Tired of swiping, she is putting emphasis on established platonic relationship. “I was on my own in lockdown,” she said. “When restrictions eased, I wanted to spend time with friends and family and have a guaranteed good time, rather than dating. Now with the increased cost of living, I’d rather spend money seeing friends than go on dates that go nowhere.”

Jasmin adds time is a resource she’s sick of wasting. “I’m open to meeting someone, but if I’m happy with my life the way it is right now,’ she says. “I know I have to give time to get to know someone, but I’ve got my own place, a good job and good friends. It would take something special – but we’re all holding back on dates or hedging our bets on many options.

“I’m sick of the dystopian and clinical nature of dating apps. The gatekeeping apps like Hinge and Tinder do to try and get you to pay for the premium version, teasing that you could meet ‘The One’ if you pay. It feels wrong that who you get to meet is being dictated by apps, so I’m trying to not use them so much.”

Jasmin is not alone when it comes to choosing to meet people in real life: In 2021, Eventbrite saw a 200 percent increase in attendance at speed dating events. Meanwhile, apps such as Thursday and Bumble are trying a hybrid approach, offering real-life events alongside app messaging.

For Dan, he’s meeting more men in bars and clubs, finding he has better luck in sparking connections that way. Meanwhile, Jasmin has started approaching guys at gigs and at the gym.

“Dating is a bastard, but the pandemic and cost of living has shown that we’re ready and able to adapt the way we date,” Dan explains. “We continue to date in the circumstances were given. Whether that’s apps, or real life, or somewhere in between. How we date is shaped by the current climate.” 

Jasmin agrees, and is optimistic that the general sense of dejection around dating will lead to a kinder and more considerate way to date.

“But dating fatigue will always be something everyone will have to juggle,” she adds. “It will always be messy and complicated as people are messy and complicated. It will never be something that’s easy and pain free.”