The (Dis)Honesty of Dating Apps
You swipe right. It’s a match! Possibilities abound. You put your best self forward. He’s responsive; he’s nice. He even asks about your day. Nobody listens these days, so you’re feeling good about this experience so far. You switch over to WhatsApp. He complains about his job. You sympathize. He says he’s going to switch his phone off for a day because he needs a break from his clients. It just happens to be Valentine’s Day. You grow suspicious. You’re right. He was trying to cheat with you.
A 24-year-old Mumbaikar, who prefers to be identified as A.A., underwent this experience on Bumble. When she confronted the man, he stressed that the application never required him to specify his relationship status. Hence, he had no qualms about hiding it from her, she recounted.
“I don’t think he was an evil person,” A.A. said. “[The dating app] is just a handy tool. The stance that comes to the forefront is ‘I don’t owe it to anyone because it’s through an app, so I can do anything I want’. It all makes us more inhumane in a way.”
With the onset of various dating apps, and a decade into social media overall, the practice of creating a virtual identity that is not necessarily completely authentic has rendered users cautious, according to Souvik Mondal, assistant professor of sociology at Presidency University, Kolkata. It is now commonplace, especially for women, to deeply scrutinize and investigate potential partners, using Facebook, LinkedIn and any other publicly available information.
“These platforms have made it so easy to find things out about someone; but also [made it] easy to lie,” he said. “It makes virtual identity very tricky to navigate.”
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One dating app user has devised his own method. The 26-year-old Mumbai resident, identified by initials M.U.V, had started to insist on knowing the nature of a match’s relationship before taking things further. Usually, women would reveal to him that they were engaged in a casual relationship, he said. Upon further probing, however, he found that they tended to reveal that their partner was unaware of their pursuits on the application.
“I tell them, ‘I’m meeting you on the condition that you tell them. WhatsApp or email me a screenshot where you have told this to your partner,’” he said. “Sure, it could have been casual [between them]. But was it honest?”
His attempts, however, have more often than not gotten him unmatched. His crusade to keep people more honest turned exhausting.
“I know lies come from a place of burden or truth. You have a backstory. To get to know it, you have to ask a lot of questions,” he said. “I don’t have time to ask any [anymore].”
His solution: to lay all of his cards out on the table, and refrain from engaging too deep into any relationship burgeoning out of dating apps.
“No one is flawless. Neither am I. But I’m just learning quicker, I think.”
A study by Texas Tech University found that the dating app Tinder was a hotbed for the pursuit of partners outside of their relationship. In a source pool of 550 college-aged students using Tinder, participants in the study said that most of them knew somebody who had engaged in infidelity by using the app.
The study showed: 63.9 percent had seen somebody on Tinder who they knew was in an exclusive relationship; 44.6 percent had used it sometimes to cheat themselves; and 35.5 percent deemed Tinder an effective way to meet people other than their committed partners.
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“These findings further suggest that individuals are using Tinder to facilitate infidelity, and our participants overwhelmingly viewed Tinder as a method for engaging in infidelity,” according to the study. It also found that men were more likely to message, engage in physical intimacy, and have sex with someone from Tinder, which researchers found consistent with past findings that show that men engage in infidelity more often than women do.
Committed partners usually peruse options outside of their marriage when they are in need of an additional support system, according to family and marriage counsellor, Dr. Nisha Khanna. With dating apps awarding instant gratification for people, it is common for a committed person feeling unfulfilled by their partner to seek succor from other, easily accessible options.
Now, one can “just tinker around, just for a sort of a goof; swipe a little just ‘cause it’s fun and playful. And then it’s like, oh — [suddenly] you’re on a date,” according to Eli Finkel, the author of The All-or-Nothing Marriage and a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, as reported by The Atlantic. Finkel believes that dating apps have “lowered the threshold of when to leave an unhappy [marriage],” the article adds.
For 41-year-old Mumbai resident M.B., the premise of his marriage was supposed to be based on companionship and understanding, which he said was true initially. Over the years, he said that he evolved differently from his partner, leading him to feel lonely and unheard. He decided to satisfy his craving for stimulating human connection on Tinder, he said.
“What I look for is primarily a connection of the minds — with someone who can hold a conversation; someone who can understand emotions and have the ability to put their thoughts and feelings into words; someone with whom I could talk about life; someone to whom I could bare my soul without a second thought,” he said, adding that he always makes sure to reveal his marital status, “right from the first conversation,” to the people he engages with on the app.
While some become offended and walk away, and some try to understand his choice out of curiosity, M.B. said that a “tiny fraction” mirror his situation. For him, “this forthrightness and transparency makes it easy to gauge and set expectations and goes a long way in establishing trust.”