As a Christian single looking for love, the prospect of finding someone in your wider social circle can sometimes be pretty grim. Everyone either (1) doesn’t share your values, (2) is already in a relationship, or (3) thinks the only acceptable form of physical contact they can share with you is a side-hug.
The success rates for these apps aren’t terrible. 20% of users reported making a connection that led to a serious relationship. However, before you start swiping, there are a few important things to be aware of:
1. YOU’RE GETTING THE FILTERED VERSION OF SOMEONE
When someone’s profile pops up on your screen, keep in mind that you aren’t seeing the real them. You’re seeing a curated handful of their best photos, accompanied by a bio that has been specifically written to spark your interest.
At the very least, the person is highlighting their best aspects and leaving out the rest. At the worst, the person who shows up for coffee might look different, act different or be several inches shorter than you expected.
2. THE MATCHING PROCESS IS PRETTY DE-HUMANISING
As you swipe your way through the digital conveyor belt of potential dates, your thought process is going to go something like this, “No. No. Yes, I guess. Not my type. O, definite yes. No. No. Definite no.”
What you probably aren’t thinking every time a new face pops up on your screen, is “behold, another beloved son or daughter of the Father, made in His divine image.”
The subliminal message of dating apps is that if you don’t immediately find someone attractive at a surface level, you should swipe left and discard them. When you’re on an app with thousands of potential matches, this makes sense.
Where it doesn’t make sense is as part of a Christian worldview. Are Christians, we’re called to treat all people with love, recognising the incredible dignity each person possesses as someone made in God’s image.
Be careful the “swipe left” mentality doesn’t rub off on how you treat people in real life.
3. IT’S NOT A NORMAL FIRST DATE
In real life, if you’re asking someone on a date, you’ve probably got at least some idea of who they really are. Perhaps they’re a friend, or a friend of a friend, or you’ve meet them at an event.
Whatever the circumstances, you know what they actually look like and you’re satisfied their potential risk of being an axe murderer is low.
When you connect with someone through an app, all you’ve got to go off is a handful of photos and a short bio. The chances that you aren’t actually going to be attracted to this person in real life are a lot higher.
Because of this, Ethan Renoe argues in his book, Bad Timing, that we should really think of our first date with someone we’ve meet via a dating app as “date zero.” “Date zero,” Renoe suggests, should be treated less like a formal date and more like a casual opportunity to get to know each other.
He likens Date Zero to striking up a conversation with a stranger at a party. You talk for 20 minutes and if it’s a great conversation, you might both decide you’d like to get to know each other better. But if not, you can part ways without much disappointment or drama.
4. KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW
The overwhelming majority of the interactions you have on a dating app are going to go nowhere.
It doesn’t matter how good your photos are or how funny your opening line is, you are one of thousands of people that the person on the other end is going to interact with. Even when it’s a match, you’re one of potentially dozens of matches in that person’s inbox.
Added to this is the fact that a decent number of people using these apps are just there for an ego boost. They aren’t really interested in getting to know you and potentially beginning a relationship.
Even if you make it to Date Zero with a match, there’s no guarantee that spark of attraction you felt when swiping is going to endure meeting in real life. A lot of the time, it won’t.
It feels grim having to write this paragraph, but it’s just the reality of these platforms. As Renoe points out, “Dating apps are designed to simply make an introduction. They are not a promise of a relationship—far from it.”
5. KNOW WHEN TO STOP SWIPING
The business model for these dating apps is as many people to using the app for as long as possible. Every minute you’re swiping is another sliver of your attention the apps can sell to advertisers, not to mention the monthly subscription fees they receive if you sign up for a premium account.
How do they keep you swiping? By planting the question in the back of your mind: “What if there’s someone better out there and I’m just a few swipes away from matching with them?”
Renoe points out that when a date goes poorly, and even when it goes well, “you have thousands more options just waiting to match with you back on the app.”
The prospect of limitless possibilities might seem exciting to begin with, but this “what if?” mindset can quickly become toxic, preventing you from making a real effort to get to know a promising match.
To avoid the “what if?” mindset, it’s important to self-impose some boundaries on your use of dating apps. I know some Christians who will restrict their use of dating apps to once per week, or just a handful of times each month. Once they’ve made a few matches, they’ll take their conversations to social media or offline as soon as possible, to avoid the temptation to keep swiping.
They’re also pretty strict about refraining from using the apps altogether once they reach the third or fourth date with someone. They’ll only return to the apps if that dating relationship doesn’t work out.
Dating apps are a fantastic way to meet new people. Back in your grandparents’ day, they had to wait until the annual inter-church badminton tournament to find a prospective partner from outside their social circle.
Before you start swiping, it’s important to have an awareness of the less-positive aspects of these platforms. People aren’t always who they appear to be, matches often don’t lead anywhere, and the way these apps work can create some pretty toxic thought patterns.
Keep reminding yourself of the 5 points above and you’ll be in the best possible mindset to swipe your way to a successful relationship!