Friday, January 25, 2019

Dating Apps: Auctioning romance and the effect of rating on unsold bodies

A programme on BBC Stories follow three individuals as one turns out to be a serial Tinder swiper, the second is clinically addicted to grinder and Meggy is totally disillusioned with short focused and superficial connections facilitated by online dating apps.

The programme prompted me to research further and look at clinical research around online dating. To my astonishment I found out that it's widely accepted among mental health practitioners that dating apps have negative impact on our mental health. There is a correlation between negative mental health impact of particular behaviour and its negative social perception by creating stigmas and taboos around change and continuity. Clinical trials by its nature focus on social impact of malignant behaviour and removes the role of human agency. There is no doubt that dating apps objectify humans and is damaging for authentic romantic relations, that is not to say it's not useful. We need to learn how to better use them as it benefit varies from person to person.

I think there are a lot of Pricks around - what I call Prick (or sometimes The Prick) is an individual who lacks curiosity, compassion, love and a sense of connection or longing for the other. These people are self-absorbed and are only interested in exploring their desires. Dating apps have empowered The Pricks to set the tone for the rest of the society. Traditionally and at various point across all cultures people emulated decency and good behaviour. thats how mainstream culture function, but how did we get here? Well, humans have weaknesses, can act against our self interest and lose focus in life. These fallibilities are recognised and elaborated in the work of renaissance pioneers such as David Hume, Karl Popper and Francis Bacon. It was crucial to recognise that human is sinful in order to end the tyranny of religion. Contrary to principles of enlightenment western culture exploits these exact shortcomings and imperfections in order to encourage instant gratification and consumption; it's done with the aid of flashy images, apps, cheap gadgets and other forms of excesses. 

This is where The Pricks come to play the role of the cultural leaders. They promote debauchery and we are primed to imitate it because the pursuit of material excesses and consumerism has conditioned us to consider instant gratification as intrinsic. Pricks are terrible at managing complex and meaningful human relations and instead seek fleeting and dopamine triggered interactions. They rationalise this as "Casual"; in case it escaped you "Casual" is euphemism for no string attached sex. We now have a terrible mix of dating apps which encourages addictive and compulsive behaviour; a cultural narrative that normalises excessive and destructive behaviour and human nature which instinctively is averse to sadness and disappointment while all meaningful and intimate human relationships come with disappointment because its part of human nature.

To strengthen my point about the impact of consumerist culture on encouraging excessive and negative attitudes and behaviour also consider the Television industry filled with shows like Coronation Street, East Enders, The Jeremy Kyle Show and etc that glorifies bad behaviour. The fashion industry which breeds negative body image and objectifies women. The media that is driven by rating and perpetuates stereotypes, racism and division. The common theme across these industries is an attempt at normalising excesses.

Dating apps are very useful tool for two types of people and have improved their lives massively which wouldn't have been possible otherwise. The first is people who know what they want; daters with a vision and they grab it when they see it. The second is the casual sexer, the people who really appreciate maintaining superficial relationship with multiple partners which are purely sexual. It is very healthy to love sex and have sex as long as you make that decision deliberately. If casual sex is not compatible with your temperament and demeanour or if you are not a massive fan of sex in general then the problem with casual approach to intimacy is its a smoke screen for the worst of human qualities. Most people normalise "Casual" to conceal insecurities, conform and hide emotions; it will not end well and most likely in psychotherapy.

Now that we have accounted for The Pricks, The Sex Lovers and The Romantic Visionary Dater we are still missing a large number of people who are just serial swipers and dopamine junkies. They are not narcissistic nor is this problem pathological, we all need to act a little bit more responsibly and think about our actions.

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