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I don't have to tell you that dating today is the most complicated it's ever been. Anyone who owns a phone knows that truly connecting with someone—and seeing them consistently enough to build an actual, exclusive relationship gasp —is tougher than an overcooked steak.


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Once upon a time, internet dating was a vaguely embarrassing pursuit. Who wanted to be one of those lonely hearts trolling the singles bars of cyberspace? These days, however, the New York Times Vows section —famous for its meet-cute stories of the blissfully betrothed—is full of couples who trumpet the love they found through Ok Cupid or Tinder. Today an estimated one-third of marrying couples in the U. Locking eyes across a crowded room might make for a lovely song lyric, but when it comes to romantic potential, nothing rivals technology, according to Helen Fisher, PhDa biological anthropologist, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Instituteand chief scientific adviser to Match.

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It aimed to give readers the backstory on marrying couples and, in the meantime, to explore how romance was changing with the times. But inseven of the 53 couples profiled in the Vows column met on dating apps.

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The year before, 71 couples whose weddings were announced by the Times met on dating apps. Dating apps originated in the gay community; Grindr and Scruff, which helped single men link up by searching for other active users within a specific geographic radius, launched in andrespectively. With the launch of Tinder iniPhone-owning people of all sexualities could start looking for love, or sex, or casual dating, and it quickly became the most popular dating app on the market.

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But the gigantic shift in dating culture really started to take hold the following year, when Tinder expanded to Android phones, then to more than 70 percent of smartphones worldwide. Shortly thereafter, many more dating apps came online. But the reality of dating in the age of apps is a little more nuanced than that.

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Completely opposite of what I would usually go for. Today, she can no longer remember what it was.

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Plus, Mike lived in the next town over. But after a few weeks of chatting on the app and one failed attempt at meeting up, they ended up on a first date at a local minor-league baseball game, drinking beer and eating hot dogs in the stands.

We often underestimate the impact of culture on technology.

For Flores and her husband, having access to a bigger pool of fellow single people was a great development. But then there was Tinder, and then there was Mike.

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Indeed, some daters bemoan the fact that meeting on the apps means dating in a sort of context vacuum. Some also believe that the relative anonymity of dating apps—that is, the social disconnect between most people who match on them—has also made the dating landscape a ruder, flakier, crueler place. Many of the stories of bad behavior Lundquist hears from his patients take place in real life, at bars and restaurants.

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But other users complain of rudeness even in early text interactions on the app. Sometimes this is just how things go on dating apps, Xiques says.

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Time and resources are limited, while matches, at least in theory, are not. And that, for me, was really important.

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Wood also found that for some respondents especially male respondentsapps had effectively replaced dating; in other words, the time other generations of singles might have spent going on dates, these singles spent swiping. One big challenge of knowing how dating apps have affected dating behaviors, and in writing a story like this one, is that most of these apps have only been around for half a decade—hardly long enough for well-deed, relevant longitudinal studies to even be funded, let alone conducted.

Eli Finkel, however, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and the author of The All-or-Nothing Marriagerejects that notion. The other subtle ways in which people believe dating is different now that Tinder is a thing are, quite frankly, innumerable.

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There are equally compelling arguments that dating apps have made dating both more awkward and less awkward by allowing matches to get to know each other remotely before they ever meet face-to-face—which can in some cases create a weird, sometimes tense first few minutes of a first date. They can help users locate other LGBTQ singles in an area where it might otherwise be hard to know—and their explicit spelling-out of what gender or genders a user is interested in can mean fewer awkward initial interactions. When Ingram Hodges, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, goes to a party, he goes there expecting only to hang out with friends.

When it does happen, people are surprised, taken aback. I pointed out to Hodges that when I was a freshman in college—all of 10 years ago—meeting cute people to go on a date with or to hook up with was the point of going to parties.

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Hodges knows that there was a time, way back in the day, when people mostly met through school, or work, or friends, or family. She and her boyfriend met on Tinder inand they soon discovered that they lived in the same neighborhood.

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Another woman fantasized to me about what it would be like to have a man hit on her in a bookstore … But then she seemed to snap out of her reverie, and changed the subject to Sex and the City reruns and how hopelessly dated they seem. Finkel, for one, believes that the new boundaries between romance and other forms of social interaction have their benefits—especially in a time when what constitutes sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, is being renegotiated.

But, naturally, with the compartmentalization of dating comes the notion that if you want to be dating, you have to be active on the apps. And that can make the whole process of finding a partner, which essentially boils down to semi-blind date after semi-blind date, feel like a chore or a dystopian game show.

As my colleague Julie Beck wrote in .

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If you just sit on your butt and wait to see if life delivers you love, then you have no right to complain. Hailey has heard her friends complain that dating now feels like a second, after-hours job; Twitter is rife with sentiments similar in tone. Finkel, for his part, puts it a little more bluntly. It is a nuisance.

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