The Lonely Hearts Club Of The Social Generation

The past 30 years have seen some landmark events. The Berlin Wall came down, Harry Potter was born and the US saw it’s first black president swear in a reality tv show president. Perhaps though, the most revolutionary landmark was the creation of the internet. The world that we once knew, is now at our fingertips.

Since its beginning, its primary purpose was to allow remote communication between people. As it has grown and evolved, so too has peoples way of and means of using it. We are constantly connected. A 2014 social media influencer study found that Millennials were consuming nearly 18 hours of media content a day. 

Anti-social is the new social

Anna Kassoway, Crowdtap’s Chief Marketing Officer claims that “some of it is passive consumption. A lot is media houses that are overlapping.” In a world where you can surf, swipe and stare simultaneously, she isn’t wrong. Our mobile phones have become an extension of ourselves and being anti-social is the new social. With 71 % of millennials engaging in social media daily, it’s no surprise that the instant connection is being used to form instant connections.

In many cases, our social media personas are more confident, more vibrant and more out-going than our actual selves. This is perhaps why so many young people turn to dating apps, as it allows them to be the people they want to be – not necessarily the person they are.

79% of Tinder users fall into the millennial category, with a high proportion of those being students. With people swiping left and right on virtually every campus across the UK, you might be surprised that both Oxford and Cambridge feature in the top Universities to be swiped (yes, they actually do take a break from their studies!).

But when university wasn’t so accessible and the internet was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, just how did the ‘youngsters’ of the past get a date?

Lonely hearts history

The first lonely hearts ad in Britain is believed to have been written in 1695, in a magazine called (would you believe it) ‘A Collection For Improvement of Husbandry and Trade’. Costing in the range of 2-3 shillings, placing an ad was a privilege for only those of the upper classes.

As the print industry soared, so did the range of ads placed. Naturally, with the migration from print to internet, the ads transformed into forum posts and eventually dating sites. In 1995, match.com came along and revolutionised the dating game. However, the real game changer was PlentyofFish, launched in 2003, which was the first free online dating-specific service. This paved the way for free apps, such as tinder. We spoke to Chloe Williams, who met and later married her husband, Danny, on the site.  

From internet to the isle 

“The thing that attracted me to his profile was definitely his picture. He had this emo fringe, and a leather jacket on with a cup of coffee,” mused the 25 year old. “I first started to use the site, as I’d heard about it through word of mouth. Tinder hadn’t quite existed then.” 

As the heating company Hive’s TV ad likes to remind us, “with Hive, you control your home from your phone.” Convenience is key in securing a market these days. Amazon now offer same day delivery, you can have your groceries delivered to your door and order take away with a tap of a screen. Like most of us accustomed to the convenience of the modern world, Chloe’s use for a dating app was simple – “It’s just easy to sit in your own house and just have a flick through, see who’s about.”

Gone are the times of matching making through friends – it’s predicted that 50% of couples will have met online by 2031, and a staggering 70% by 2040. When asked about alternative methods, Chloe admitted that she had “not really” attempted to meet someone organically.

She did however admit to “4 or 5” failed dates before meeting her now-husband. “You can tell pretty early on who’s not quite right for you,” and when that happens? “You make your excuses pretty early on and leave. It depends on the date that you’re on, but most often they know it’s not right either, so it’s not as awkward as it could be.”

“Tinder is slightly different to PlentyofFish, though,” she adds. “It’s more casual, whereas PoF is definitely for people who are looking for something long term.”

While Chloe may have missed the Tinder wave, she’s heard numerous cringe-worthy stories from her friends. One in particular stuck, when her friend “met up with a guy from Tinder and all seemed to be going well. They went for drinks and all was going to plan, but when she got back to his, she noticed a slightly odd vibe… It turned out he had 50 Shades of Grey style sex swing in his room.” The friend made her excuses and left pretty swiftly afterwards.

Online dating dangers


This does leave the debate about safety open for opinions. As children we are taught to never speak to strangers – especially strangers on the internet, as you never know who could be behind the screen. The same goes for online dating. A little lie from some guy about 5 extra inches (mind out of the gutter, I’m talking height) could be forgiven (after you’ve taken your heels off, of course). But what happens when things take more a sinister turn?

A man in Mexico was recently convicted of killing his tinder date and dissolving her body in acid because she refused to have sex with him. Another woman plunged to her death from her tinder date’s 14th floor balcony after a heated argument. 

While these cases are isolated, it raises questions on how to ensure user safety. How far can tinder be held responsible?

A Freedom of Information enquiry revealed that there had been over 500 incidents reported to the UK police as a result of apps such as Tinder and Grindr.

 

Chloe’s advice? “Just be very careful… I would recommend [dating apps] but proceed with caution.”

This is supported by Jem Farrow, a tinder enthusiast who recognises the importance of being safe online. “I’ve never met anyone who I thought was odd. I don’t think that’s down to luck, I think it’s down to knowing warning signs and cutting off contact as soon as they start to flag up,” the 20 year old confesses.

Jem, who has had a presence online since she was a young teen, has been on tinder for over 3 years and believes that “these incidents are so rare that [she] feels it would silly to come off of those apps just incase something were to happen. You’ve probably got a higher chance of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery than having a date go that badly.”

“Of course I’m always cautious when it comes to tinder – you’d be stupid not to be,” she adds. “You’re sharing personal information and data with relative strangers, but it’s just the same a Facebook really. As long as you hold back revealing too much about yourself until after you’ve met them and know that they’re sane human beings, I don’t really see any issues. Yes, they could turn out to be complete psychos, but that could happen with any kind of relationship – platonic or romantic, organic or arranged like tinder.”

During her time on the app, Jem has secured over 1000 matches, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Asides from the actual purpose of the app, the functionality and usability have caused issues. “The actual app itself is a bit crap. They’re focused too much on what makes them money as opposed to the actual user experience. It crashes regularly and often tells me there’s no one in my area, which I know is incorrect. It does put me off using it, but asides from clubbing, meeting new people when you’re midway through uni isn’t actually the easiest thing to do. So for the mean time, until something better comes along, I’ll continue to use it.”

Reinforcing Chloe’s previous point, Jem believes caution is the way forward – “don’t go to their house on the first date and talk to them for a long time before you meet them” are her two solid tips for keeping herself safe. “There have been a few times where I’ve though ‘woah, okay, this isn’t going well’ so just backed off. If they’ve persisted, I’ve simply unmatched them. Without a great deal of information on your profile, tracking you down and getting into contact with you again can be pretty hard – almost impossible depending on your privacy level on Facebook.”

With our lives so heavily online these days, she believes you should never advertise “[your] snapchat, Instagram or Facebook links on [your] profile.That kind of thing can wait until you’re 100% sure about a person.”

Dating apps have revolutionized the world’s social climate. As with all technology, there will always be fear associated with them; fear of the unknown, the unaccepted, the untouchable. Proximity remains to play a large part in finding a date and, with that, convenience also. However, Jem raised the point of a loved one being able to turn on you just as easily – if not more so – as an online acquaintance, so perhaps we should be more focused on who we meet, not how we meet them.

Holly McLaren

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