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Gen Z has fallen out of love with dating apps

Designed to be deleted. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

June 14, 2024 - 7:00am

It appears that, after an entire adolescence dimly lit by blue light and soundtracked by the ping of social media notifications, young people are finally looking for a digital detox.

Gen Z has fallen out of love with dating apps. In fact, 90% feeling frustrated with the shallow, vapid slot-machine experience of swiping left or right. Apps such as Tinder and Bumble are struggling both in terms of stock market value and user downloads, while new data from the event management company Eventbrite shows a significant increase in speed dating and singles events (three times as many in London last year compared to 2021), suggesting an ever-increasing demand for in-person interactions.

After years of being hyper-connected in the virtual world and socially disconnected in the real one, this divorce from online dating seems to be part of a wider desire to de-digitalise our lives. We can see this in terms of romantic events: game-based dating events grew 163% in 2023, while athletic dating events like pickleball and spin classes saw a 135% rise on Eventbrite. Yet we can also see this in the demand for more platonic events: think about the explosion in running clubs and park runs; the popularity of book clubs and supper nights; the rise of companies like The Otto Connection that organise everything from walks to bridge nights to champagne tasting.

Young people are craving connection, and despite being categorised as the chronically online generation, the picture for Gen Z is actually more complicated than first appears. One study of over 20,000 young people aged between 17-23 found that 77% of respondents preferred reading printed books to e-readers, and were 23% more likely to visit shopping centres than other age groups because they preferred shopping in-store to online. Another survey suggested that 64% of Gen-Z was taking a break from social media, with 34% planning on leaving permanently, as nearly half said that it made them feel sad, anxious or depressed.

What remains to be seen is whether Big Tech will respond and adapt to these changing behavioural demands, or simply find increasingly innovative ways to keep us trapped in the vicious cycle of download, delete, re-download, repeat. Unfortunately, it seems to be more likely the latter, as our Silicon Valley overlords continue to invest in new technologies which no one seems to actually want — whether it be Mark Zuckerburg’s Metaverse, or Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd’s suggestion that the future of online dating is AI avatars.

People want chemistry, connection, authenticity, shared experiences and interests, but Big Tech is not interested in what we want, because we are not the consumer: we are the product. We just have to hope that we divert our attention away long enough for Big Tech to finally notice.


Kristina Murkett is a freelance writer and English teacher.

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William Woods
William Woods
1 month ago

Who would of thought it! People wanting human interaction…

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
1 month ago
Reply to  William Woods

And this is not the only factor – although the hunger for meaningful human interaction seems to be the principal one.
I have read in a similar article that all these sites/apps want to keep people as their subscribers as long as possible (logical enough from a purely financial point of view).
However, this also means that these sites and apps are not interested in people achieving their goal, i.e. finding someone compatible enough to have a relationship with.
And it is clear enough that a business model based on keeping customers on their toes without leading to a desirable result cannot be sustainable in the long run (and, most probably cannot even be successful in the medium run).
Could we view this as yet another example of short-termism in designing/selecting a business model? Just taking money and running, to put it more succinctly? It seems like that…

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago

Their aim is to keep the members on the app and watching it, in order to sell advertising. So yeah, it’d be counter to their needs to have members find someone quickly, then stop watching the app & then uninstall it.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago
Reply to  William Woods

Not at singles events
 at least as far as men are concerned.
The minority of men who attend singles events are not described favourably online.

Pequay
Pequay
1 month ago

So, despite the industry’s best efforts there are those refusing to remain enmeshed in the machine? I for one am pleased to hear this.
Vive l’humanite!

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

Tom Wolfe’s “Great Re-Learning” continues apace, but probably not “apace” enough to save us.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

Every one of these ‘Dating Apps’ is badly overpriced for the actual value it delivers. I’d rather develop my self-confidence, smile at a girl I like, and strike up a conversation.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago

Everyone knows that all men on dating apps are weird,married or axe murderers and possibly all three.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago
Reply to  jane baker

And all the females are 5’s who think they are 10’s and have a high body count.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

And, if I go onto a dating app and find my girl in a month’s time, I will delete the app and cancel my $25/week subscription. From the app’s perspective, it’s better to create a product which draws in the customer but does not give the customer what he needs in a short time span ….

Orlando Skeete
Orlando Skeete
1 month ago

Now if only they could learn to put down the phone the few times they leave their giant bottles of water at home and head to a nightclub… They might actually have some fun.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 month ago

I’m not sure how much digital detox were going to do but I can see already that the younger members of my family have ditched the apps and found their partners at work and most of the women. My age had decided to ditch the apps even if it means never meeting anybody.