Maybe choice overload applies a little differently than Slater imagined.
Maybe the problem is not the people who date and date some more—they might even get married, if Rosenfeld is right—but those who are so daunted that they don’t make it off the couch.
Then she remembered that she’d seen his profile on Tinder.“Maybe next time I sign in,” she said, musing aloud, “I’ll just swipe right so I don’t have to do this awkward thing and get rejected.”Apart from helping people avoid the potential embarrassments (if also, maybe, the exhilaration) of old-fashioned flirting, apps are quite useful to those who are in what economists call “thin markets”—markets with a relatively low number of participants.Online daters, he argued, might be tempted to keep going back for experiences with new people; commitment and marriage might suffer.Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist who runs a longitudinal study out of Stanford called “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” questions this hypothesis; his research finds that couples who meet online tend to marry more quickly than other couples, a fact that hardly suggests indecision. The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is “not wrong at all” is at an all-time high. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free, and the morning-after pill without a prescription.
If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour.“Getting right-swiped is a good ego boost even if I have no intention of meeting someone,” one man told me.A 28-year-old woman said that she persisted in using dating apps even though she had been abstinent for three years, a fact she attributed to depression and low libido: “I don’t have much inclination to date someone.”“After a while it just feels exactly the same as getting good at a bubble-popping game.For one thing, lots of people appear to be using them as a diversion, with limited expectations of meeting up in person.As Iris, who’s 33, told me bitterly, “They’ve gamified interaction.feeling.” Other people said they liked the fact that on an app, their first exchanges with a prospective date could play out via text rather than in a face-to-face or phone conversation, which had more potential to be awkward. “This person is interested in me to some extent.” The problem is that the more Anna uses apps, the less she can imagine getting along without them.