#GetQurious: 6 experts advise about the age of dating apps

#GetQurious: 6 experts advise about the age of dating apps

Let’s begin the conversation. Let’s rid the taboo.

By Samantha Pérez


Looking for love at first swipe? You’ve got plenty of options, over 75 million options to be exact if you care to take a swing at Tinder. It’s never been easier to access people from all over the world for possible love connections, but ironically enough there may be a disconnect within this digital age with the idea of finding “the one”. Is it even possible anymore? With closer inspection, dating apps show us what we want —a relationship—without always accurately reflecting the experience of it. Finding love behind a screen isn’t necessarily the root of modern dating’s lack of kismet chemistry; it’s the byproduct of a culture that lacks awareness of others because of limited contact and limitless choices.


It’s why dating app fatigue is on the rise. Is it really dating or rather a first impressions game? People are judged on minute details from their profile pictures to how they converse as if it's a job interview to pass. God forbid they mentioned liking GOT’s finale because in a click they’re easy to dispose of without a second glance. That explains why this ghosting phenomenon is the new normal; No one is actually putting their hearts on the line while online, making dating superficial. 


This upkeep of messaging strangers on rotation, performing being your best self, and struggling to find someone you like is demoralising, to say the least. Nowadays, many of us even use our phones as an extension of our work lives thanks to apps like Slack, so it's easy to see how dating can feel like yet another task, rather than a romantic endeavour. But, wait! Before you go about deleting your apps, Quanna has reached out to 6 incredibly insightful experts to discuss how we can evolve alongside the digital dating sphere without compromising our truth and what we want. Read on to learn how to date online with intention, because an algorithm alone isn’t enough to find love.    


Charlotte Fox Weber | @charlottefoxweberpsychotherapy

Charlotte Fox Weber is a relationship psychotherapist and the author of What We Want: A Journey Through Twelve of Our Deepest Desires. She founded and ran The School of Life Psychotherapy from 2015-2020 and she's the co-founder of Examined Life, a psychotherapy collective. She works with individuals, couples, and groups in Central London and online. She is particularly interested in envy and desire, the creative possibilities of sexual struggles, and how to navigate the dark side of what we want and feel joy.

 

Charlotte Fox Weber

1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


Dating apps can be brutal. I have so many clients who struggle with the disappointment of thinking they’ve connected with someone and then discovering that the person online is a letdown. There can also be a feeling of constant rejection and replaceability. It’s essential to derive self-worth from other sources than these experiences. I do also have clients who have found their life partners through apps. I think that when you look at the type of people you’re selecting, there’s often a fascinating pattern that can highlight where you’re getting in your own way. I had a client who was desperate for commitment but continually selected people who said they weren’t looking for anything serious. We play games with ourselves in these ways and self-deception sometimes comes out through dating apps. 


2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


Diversify your sources of meaning in life. See it as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. It’s immensely liberating to shift demands into preferences. You’d prefer to cultivate an authentic relationship — wonderful, but if the person you’re sitting across from isn’t suitable, see it for what it is— an experience. It’s problematic if there’s emphatic pressure to make something fit when it just doesn’t. Flexibility helps incredibly. 


3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?


What is something you've faked? We all pretend at times, but we don't admit it nearly enough.


Maria Sosa, M.S., MFT | @holisticallygrace

Maria Sosa, M.S., MFT, is a therapist, holistic health coach, wellness writer, and multi-passionate human. She has a master's degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University, and she is a relationship expert who has been featured on Refinery29, Bumble, Kossie, the Emjoy app, and more. She is best known on social media as @holisticallygrace, where her colourful, practical, and compassionate content is a source of inspiration for those looking to thrive and grow in their personal and interpersonal relationships.


Looking to incorporate her love of nutrition into her scope of practice, she received her holistic health coach certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and she is also a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As the host of the “Mind Meets Body” podcast, Maria likes to explore and redefine health by discussing the emotional, mental, and spiritual components that are often left out of the exercise/nutrition-centric mainstream definition.


Maria is originally from Venezuela and currently resides in Miami where she provides professional relationship therapy services for both couples and individuals that are designed to assist through life transitions, setting better boundaries, processing, and healing from relationship-related trauma, painful post-relationship journeys, and more.

 

Maria Sosa

(she/her)


1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


The dating app struggle is real! Full disclosure, my observations might be a bit skewed since I’m often working with individuals who are struggling to navigate dating in this digital age. AND I think they’re still a good representation of the population at large and some of their general sentiments. There are definitely some overall themes that keep coming up. For example, the app filtering options and the process of narrowing down potential mates. While it’s important to find someone that you’re attracted to, the app's emphasis on superficial and physical attributes leaves so many feeling discouraged and downright discarded if they don’t fit into the box. For the heteronormative narrative, sometimes that box is really narrow: one must be 6ft feet, make 6 figures, have a full set of hair, or be young, thin, blonde, etc. 

 

There’s obviously a sense of inadequacy for those who don’t fit into that mold and get fewer matches as a result. While this happens to some extent when dating off the apps, the in-person filter is less precise and allows for more of that human-to-human interaction. We’re more likely to engage with others that may not fit this criterion but that we’re still possibly attracted to or feel drawn to. On the other hand, filtering also allows for more intentional dating. A person can narrow down between those who are looking for something light and casual and those looking for a more serious relationship in order to focus on what their dating needs are at the moment. 

 

Another one that comes up is ghosting. Which no one likes and of course feels awful. Unfortunately, the virtual component creates a bit of desensitisation and we forget that there’s a real person behind the profile. A real person with thoughts and feelings.

 

As a whole, I try to remind people that dating and finding your person is a numbers game. The more dates you go on, the higher the chances you’ll find someone you like. Online dating and apps are just another place to find people. If you come into it with the expectation of just enjoying yourself, meeting someone new, enjoying their company, and learning about yourself while you’re dating, it’s a win.

2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


I think this actually starts with the person getting to know themselves first. What they are looking for, what they find attractive (beyond the superficial), their non-negotiables, looking at their previous relationship dynamics, checking in with those red flags they may have bypassed in the past, etc. From here, it’s helpful for them to show up authentically; essentially a clear representation of themselves and the person they are also seeking. Share the things that they’re genuinely interested in, the likes and dislikes, the quirky things that make them-them. I encourage specificity. If they’re a big Harry Potter fan, say it! More than likely, they’ll find someone who’s also House Gryffindor, and this shared alignment can spark a great conversation. I also encourage using the inner wisdom filter, and I’m not talking about height! But setting a preference for those individuals and profiles that feel warm, welcoming, and inviting and that they would want to be around, even if it doesn’t turn into a relationship. Essentially focusing on the type of dating experience they want to have, and the types of people they would want to invest their energy in. When this is a priority, more authentic exchanges occur.


3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?


What are your thoughts on therapy? Have you ever been or are you open to it? Let’s be honest, emotional intelligence is extremely sexy! If a person is seeking to understand themselves, and become aware of their relationship dynamics, that’s a person who is looking to grow. They get that relationships are no walk in the park but they’re willing to put in the work. That’s definitely a green flag in my book. It also destigmatizes therapy and our mental health struggles, I’m all in for these types of conversations.


Lola Jean | @lolajeandotcom

Lola Jean is a sex educator, fetish wrestler, headmistress of 7 Days of Domination, and World Record Holder for Volume Squirting (solo), who provides the No Frills Sex Education at  Lolajean.com we both need and deserve. Lola brings a refreshing understanding to sex, sexuality, and kink to push individuals past what they think they are capable of.


Photo credit: Lanee Bird (@lovvr)

Lola Jean

(she/her/they)


1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


It’s really hard to stay grounded when you’re in a dating app bubble. You may notice yourself bending on some of your standards in favour of being likeable or going along with the person you are talking to. It’s hard to remember that not every person you like or are interested in is necessarily a good match for you, so we can find ourselves pursuing people that will ultimately not work, which can make us feel like we failed, when in reality—we were just pursuing the wrong person. Dating apps are phenomenal tools if we use them in a way that works for us. They get a bad rap due to dating app fatigue or perceived failure rate, but we can learn to use them appropriately. This may mean limiting the amount of time you spend on them, when you access the apps, or how you filter your potential matches. 


2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


It can be done, I promise it can be! You’ll definitely have to wade through the muddy waters, but there are ways to make this search easier for you and less personal. Before you go on dating apps make a list of your values and the qualities you want in your next relationship. Get clear on what you’re looking for and it will be easier to see when someone falls within that bucket instead of meeting the person and deciding if you fit into theirs. You most certainly can look for hookups while you are looking for your relationship but those qualities and values may be different from what you look for in a relationship. Do not—I repeat, do not acquiesce to ‘going with the flow’ or trying to be ‘easy breezy’ in order to match with more people or extend situationships, this is compromising on your own needs and not being true to yourself. My friend Aileen Barrett wrote a book called Tinder Translators that I wish I had before I started my dating app journey. It really helps with perspective and how to use these tools to our advantage!


3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?


It’s less a particular question and more a wish for honesty. I wish we could be more honest with ourselves and each other instead of worrying about rejection or if we are arguing to put someone else off. This doesn’t mean asking super personal questions off of the bat but instead holding true to what we are looking for. That means if you’re looking for something casual and not interested in a relationship, say that. If you are looking for something casual but are uncomfortable talking about what casual means to you or talking openly about sexual preferences, you may not be ready for what casual means to someone else. We should be able to discuss what these words mean to each of us, because one person's casualness may not meet the needs of another.


Emily L. Depasse, MSW, M.Ed | @sexelducation

Emily L. Depasse, MSW, M.Ed. is a sex educator, digital creator, and writer working to redefine the narratives around herpes and other STIs. She received her MSW and M.Ed. in Human Sexuality Studies from Widener University and holds a B.A. in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Salisbury University with minors in English and psychology. Emily's writing also appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Lily, Women’s Health, Teen Vogue, and more. You can see more of her work on emilydepasse.com.

 

Emily L. Depasse, MSW, M.Ed

(she/her)


1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


I recently did a series on my Instagram entitled, “The State of Dating Apps.” I reviewed popular apps like Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, as well as more niche apps, like Feeld. I read through each app’s terms and conditions, analysed their target audience, and reviewed their safety and community guidelines. I also evaluated user experience. In this process, I learned that there really is no “perfect” dating app. While one app may have a more detailed review process for reporting transgressions, their overall community guidelines may make defining such behaviour difficult or impossible. Other apps that claim to be inclusive to other genders still operate very much within a binary system. For example, when selecting one’s gender and gender(s) of interest, the drop-down might be A) male, B) female, or C) other. Additionally, many of these popular apps operate under the same parent company, which was a surprise that further proved the commercialization of dating, despite claims of hoping users ultimately find love. 


2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


While dating apps are largely accessible across the globe, I think they hold an expectation of inauthenticity. Someone can be anyone they want on social media, including dating apps. Most people are inclined to put their best self forward online, whether it’s their dating profile or resume, but we’ve all heard the horror stories of catfishing, disrespect, and, sadly, abuse. 

 

When selecting a dating app, determine what exactly you want from the experience. Most of the apps hold stereotypes about which are for hook-ups and which are “designed to be deleted” (Hinge), but I think this largely depends on where you live and how you present yourself, and your dating goals to app users. Taking the extra step to read the fine print and user experience guidelines of each app may further assist you in protecting your dating experience and rights on and off the app.   

 

3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?


A version of “How do you take care of yourself?” or “How do you prioritise rest in your life?” While this question elicits reflection on self-care, it’s really signalling to potential partners if and how in tune you are with yourself. Knowing how to take care of oneself through the fluctuations in human emotion and life circumstances translates to how we support and show up in our relationships, too.   


Claira Hermet | @missclairahermet

BBC’s Radio Presenter Claira Hermet is passionate about helping people to have their very own personal revolution as a Personal Development Coach at https://www.clairahermet.co.uk. Claira is an accredited NLP practitioner and clinical hypnotherapist, integrating these tools and techniques into her coaching. Her popular youtube channel is an extension of support to share what Claira has learned, how she’s overcome her ‘negative’ past and how she continues to push the boundaries to grow herself and her life. 

 

Claira Hermet

1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


In an ideal world, we would all meet the love of our lives in real life but this isn't an ideal world. There's also this idea that if you want love you shouldn't go looking for it but I don't believe that. Like anything, if you want it you have to be intentional about finding it, however, I think creating a loving relationship with our single selves first helps us manage our expectations and stay positive and not needy. 

 

Personally, I have been using dating apps on and off over the last 4 years since becoming single. I currently think that certain apps are more associated with hookup culture and some with more 'serious' daters. I have found them to be frustrating, fun, annoying, and enjoyable, a complete contradiction but ultimately that's life. You have to take the rough with the smooth. As I have worked on my relationship with myself more and become very clear about what I want in my relationship I feel that a huge pressure has been lifted. At times I have felt like I 'need' to find someone and that's never a good space to look from because you feel desperate and you're more likely to settle for something that won't make you happy or fulfill your needs in the long run. It also means you're putting pressure on dating apps to work and the disappointment you feel when they don't is not nice. I have found that really learning to love, embrace and accept both myself and my life as it is now has allowed me to be much more objective about dating apps. It allows me to be there because I want to, not because I feel I must. It allows me to approach the experience with lightness and humour (which if dating requires of us). It allows me to feel empowered to be upfront and ask the questions I want to ask to determine if someone is headed in the same direction as me without fear. If someone reacts badly to questions about the type of relationship they want then I already know it's a NO!


2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


I would say several things. Get to know yourself. What is your attachment style? What is your love language? What kind of relationship do you want and are you ready for? What are the values and qualities you require in a partner? It's a nice idea to think we can remain unaware and create a dating app 'fairytale' but this is real life and we need to do the work on ourselves and be very clear on what we want. Keep your expectations under control, you might have to 'kiss a few frogs' aka get ghosted, do a lot of talking stages and meet people who weren't what you were expecting and that's ok. 

 

  1. Match someone
  2. Exchange some messages but don't give away too much of what you're looking for in a partner. By all means, be very honest about what kind of relationship you want but don't tell someone the qualities and values you're looking for. If someone asks me I will say "I'm looking for someone to be themselves so I can get to know each other and work out if we are a good match". Giving away too much too soon makes it easy for someone to mirror the qualities you want and then you might learn the hard way that's not who they are later down the line (this has happened to me). 
  3. Before you agree to meet them, always have a video call. It saves a lot of time. After the call, you'll either want to meet them or you won't. 
  4. Keep the first date short, sweet and simple. For example a walk, a coffee, a space where you can meet and chat alcohol-free. It's important to remember with apps that you haven't met yet so keep expectations and plans simple. If you like each other after the first small meet up then you can start dating. 
  5. Slow down. I know how tempting it can be to want to rush to the finish line when you meet someone you like but take your time and really get to know them. It's easy to get lost in the source and wrapped up in the moment. 
  6. BE YOURSELF. If you want an authentic connection, get comfortable being you.

 

3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?

 

Have you been to therapy? I'm almost 40 and I know that it's really important for me to be with someone who is emotionally aware and available. We all have baggage but are you aware of yours and have you worked on it? Someone going to therapy doesn't mean they are healed but to me it shows that they have some self-awareness and a willingness to work on themselves. That's important.

Sara Kuburic | @millennial.therapist

Sara Kuburic is a Serbian-Canadian therapist, researcher and writer, also popularly known as the online millennial therapist. She is a trauma-informed clinician with a person-centred approach that is grounded in existential analysis as well as somatic and experiential techniques. Sara specialises in areas of trauma & abuse, identity relationships with self & others, life transitions, and anxiety.

 

Sara Kuburic
(she/her)

1. How has your experience with dating apps been? Whether it be personally or what you've observed professionally.


I’ve observed the growing frustration people have with using dating apps. I feel like it dehumanises the process of connection, vulnerability, and intimacy. It has made dating more accessible, but also less meaningful. People are struggling knowing what to look for or how to present themselves. They also seem to be having a hard time knowing when to give someone another chance and when to tap out quickly!


2. How does someone looking for an authentic relationship go about navigating dating apps?


Ask for what you want. Be clear that you don’t want games or an obstacle course – you want an authentic relationship. In addition, if you want an authentic relationship, make sure that you are being authentic! 


When meeting others, keep in mind that people are rarely 100% authentic on dating apps. It’s helpful to understand that although someone’s profile might not tell you exactly who they are (it might take time for you to discover it), it will at least tell you how they want to be seen. This is helpful information! 


3. What's a question that you wish more people would ask whether via a dating app or on a first date?


How do I feel when I am around this person? (Or talking to this person)? Do I feel funny, sexy, witty? Do I feel like I need to try hard and impress them? Am I hiding aspects of who I am? Do I feel uncomfortable? 

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