Swipe right, left lonely: The struggles of digital dating

Posted at 10:09 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 13:27:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- You could call it a modern day love story.

It started when Janie and Chris swiped right on Tinder.

"His profile picture was a very dorky picture. The very first one," Janie George said.

On their first date, the chemistry was undeniable.

"Just don’t say that we met on Tinder and the first thing her dad says to me is, ‘hey you’re not one of those Tinder boys are you,’" Chris George said.

Seven months later they were engaged. Now they're expecting. Today the story of how they met has become a familiar one.

"I think that’s what everyone wants. Something unique and I guess ours is just a little more 21st century unique," Chris George said.

A meaningful relationship is what most people are hoping for when they sign up for apps like Tinder and Bumble.

Here's how they work. You build a profile with photos and basic information, like age and job description. Then you start swiping.

When a picture pops up, you swipe right if you're interested, swipe left if you're not. The only way you're allowed to message each other is if you match, by both swiping right.

It’s changing the face of dating by creating thousands of options all at your fingertips. With nearly 50 million users, Tinder claims 12 million are finding matches each day.

But can all those matches be too much of a good thing? Leslee Miller, a clinical social worker with Sugarhouse counseling said getting matches can be very addicting.

"When we get a response, we get a little excitement going on in our brain and a little release of dopamine and that’s a feel-good chemical," Miller said.

Just like a drug, swiping becomes an easy fix where users can get hooked on instant gratification.

"You have to be very careful with how you use those apps," Miller said.

Nick Garn said he originally joined Tinder and Bumble to find a girlfriend.

"I’m just looking through human Netflix right now, seeing which series I want to commit my time to next," Garn said.

According to Pew Research Center, online dating among millennials has nearly tripled over the past two years and it's doubled among Americans ages 55 to 64.

However, once you transfer the connection offline, many users like Danny Nappi and Alexis Kener, end up disappointed.

"There are just hundreds and hundreds of people that you could potentially be attracted to, and then when you meet them, the chances of there being chemistry and there being something there is really rare," Nappi said.

"I'll see a guy’s profile and be like oh, he looks like a catch, and then I'll meet him in person and think that isn't what I thought it was going to be," Kener said.

Dating app user Jareck Hansen said the reality is rarely as promising as the virtual match.

"You see the picture and you fill in the blanks, but when you meet them in real life, it's not what you expect," Hansen said.

Many users like Courtney Harder also feel the apps have made it harder to approach someone the old fashioned way.

"People don’t really approach other people often, especially guys approaching girls," Harder said.

User Mark Doyle questions why someone like him would face potential rejection when you can hide behind your phone?

"When you have an app at your hands, she responds, you can show your two friends. I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to blow it and boy you got three minutes to craft some magic," Doyle said.

You may have logged on initially to find a relationship, but once you get sucked in, why would you commit to one person when you can get another dose of dopamine with a simple swipe?

"Finding a date is easy, it’s finding someone who you have a genuine connection with who’s actually looking to date instead of get a date or get that instant gratification of, ‘ooh she’s into me,’" Harder said.

As you might guess, finding long-term love with someone involves a lot more than a simple swipe.

"It’s just all about when you meet those people can you be in the relationship or am I going on and hedging my bets with five other people," Miller said.

It takes time, investment, commitment and compassion.

"The grass is greener where you water it, that's what people have to learn in a relationship. If you want it to work, you've got to water the relationship that you have."

So if you find chemistry in person, you might need to rewire your brain and log out to allow lasting love to grow.