February 17, 2024 - 1:00pm

As the rest of us were celebrating love on Valentine’s Day, dating apps were hit with accusations of crimes against it. Match Group — the parent company that owns the majority of the major dating apps, including Tinder, Hinge, The League, Match.com, PlentyOfFish and more — was sued on the 14th in a proposed class action lawsuit targeting the apps’ gamified structure. Instead of aiding users in their quest to find connection and relationships, the plaintiffs claim these apps promote compulsive, addictive behaviour that encourages members to stay on the apps as long as possible, even paying to do so. 

The suit focuses on a key piece of marketing that Match Group promotes: for Hinge, in particular, they advertise that it is an app that is “designed to be deleted.” Allegedly, however, the apps are more likely to turn people into gamblers, always on the hunt for their next big win. Online, many have responded to the news by saying they don’t see apps as addictive per se, but they question how else these companies make a profit if not by keeping people single

Dating apps are a core fixture of romantic life in the modern age and will likely remain so for the next several years. According to Pew Research from 2022, half of all never-married Americans under 50 have used them, with most saying they’ve done so to find a long-term relationship.

That means this lawsuit carries a lot of weight. But even if it does not succeed, the suit could serve as a healthy corrective. Some people may be meeting on the apps, but it seems that fewer people are meeting at all. One major problem with dating apps is that they have given users an unnatural perception of how to couple up. In the early days of the apps, the only real limitations for who a user had a chance to match with were their own demographic preferences and location. Now, one common complaint lobbed against the apps is that they constantly dangle high-calibre matches, only making them accessible if you pay. Either way, it gives the sense that someone better is always on the horizon, and that we ought to keep swiping and see how our odds improve. 

Whether or not the lawsuit succeeds, it is a healthy corrective. Dating apps have radically altered our view of romance and dating, and worst of all, we now have little sense of how to part with them. This lawsuit may help ease some of the problems of the apps, but it’s going to take more than a class action to teach us how to meet again.

Magdalene Taylor is a New York City-based writer covering sex and culture.