The Conversation has released an investigation into why people behave the way they do on dating platforms, and what it means for ‘modern dating’.
The investigation found that ‘there’s no doubt that online dating and dating apps have transformed the way we initiate, form and end romantic relationships. We might also question whether the convenience of these apps has encouraged us to behave differently than we would in “real life”. More specifically, do mobile dating apps breed bad or antisocial behaviour?
If you use dating apps, you’ve probably been “ghosted” on occasion (where someone withdraws all contact) – or maybe you’ve ghosted somebody yourself. Perhaps you’ve found out that someone you’ve been chatting to on an app was in a relationship. Or if you don’t use these apps, you might have heard horror stories from friends.
Let’s take a look at some of the bad behaviours that we see most commonly – and how psychology can explain them.
A common theme is how regular it is for people to be using dating apps while in a relationship. Data from the US has shown some 42% of people with a Tinder profile were either in a relationship or married.
In a study of American undergraduate students, around two-thirds revealed that they had seen someone on Tinder who they knew to be in a relationship. Further, 17% of participants said they had messaged someone on Tinder while in a committed relationship, with 7% engaging in a sexual relationship with someone they had met on Tinder while in a committed relationship.
There’s also evidence that people are using dating apps to keep up what we call “backburner” relationships. This is when someone on a dating app maintains contact with another person in the hope of some day pursuing something romantic or sexual.
Online communication, of course, makes keeping in contact much easier. Researchers have suggested that relationship maintenance in a backburner relationship involves positivity (being compassionate to the other person and ensuring that interactions with them are fun and enjoyable), openness (disclosing personal information to them, maybe even sharing secrets) and assurances (demonstrating a wish for the relationship to be sustained over time).
When investigating why people behave different online to in-person, The Conversation found that ‘the convenience and abundance of choice in online dating perhaps encourages a culture of “disposability” – being able to “trade up” in the dating market and abandon a current partner more easily. Personal mobile devices, equipped with a passcode or face recognition protection, allow for and might even encourage more surreptitious and secretive behaviour.
Online behaviour generally is often characterised by disinhibition – we’re inclined to behave more freely online than we do in a face-to-face context. In part, this is because of the feeling of anonymity we have online.’