The Surprising Reason Dating Apps Are So Popular


James is an average American millennial. He owns a smartphone, eats avocado toast, and spends more time than he’d like to admit looking for love online. His dating app of choice: Tinder. He casually swipes for about 87 minutes a day—more than 40 hours per month—but still hasn’t managed to find his better half and is beginning to wonder what he’s doing wrong.

The online dating industry brings in a whopping $2 billion per year and has been growing at a rate of 3.5% since 2008. From Tinder and Bumble to Coffee Meets Bagel, there are dozens of apps attempting to keep people swiping in the hope of finding love in real life. But how many of those users are searching for a real connection?

The Real Reason Dating Apps Fail to Satisfy Us

According to a study by ABODO involving 3,500 millennials, the app with the most engagement is Tinder, accounting for 84% of active users. While not surprising, considering that over 10 million people log in every day, only 13% claimed to be looking for love, while 34% admitted to using the app purely for entertainment purposes. Even more compelling, 11% confessed they only engage for the “ego boost.”

Everyone needs a little validation, but with technological progress comes a lot more opportunities to find it. And although it would seem like all that attention could satisfy the need, studies show that people who use social media more frequently are more likely to experience feelings of envy, loneliness, and even misery. The more you swipe, the more you need to keep doing it to maintain your self-confidence.

So Much Time, So Few Connections

In a NY Times interview, the founders of the online dating behemoth discussed how much time people spend swiping. The average user logs into the app 11 times per day, spending as much as 7.9 minutes perusing potential partners. Take it a few steps further, and you get a staggering 22 days per year staring at your phone (when you could be out meeting people in the real world).

If that weren’t depressing enough, only 21% of women and 7% of men who get matched actually send a message. For some, keeping their social interaction online helps with social anxiety. But for most, it just means a lot of wasted time, and potentially, a lot of missed connections.

A Real Connection is Worth a Thousand Matches

The majority of users who engage in online dating do so for entertainment and validation. This dramatically decreases the likelihood of making a real connection, while simultaneously increasing feelings of loneliness and insecurity. As a result, searching for a partner in virtual reality becomes a vicious cycle that keeps people swiping without ever giving them a reason to stop.

If you find yourself in an endless cycle of swiping in exchange for the dopamine boost that accompanies being matched with someone you will never meet, maybe it’s time to look up from your phone and see who’s around you. Staring at a screen keeps you from experiencing the present moment and possibly the love of your life, who could be sitting within arm’s reach.

As for James, he’s still looking for love, clocking in his hours on any number of dating sites, wondering how many matches it will take before someone actually sends him a message.


Evan Fowler
Evan is a content writer with a self-proclaimed addiction to technology. Having grown up in a household burdened by substance abuse, he has a personal insight into what addiction looks like and how it can affect the people around him.