Problems with Dating Apps and Solutions from Relationship Ethicists


With the increasing popularity of dating apps worldwide, it is alarming to learn that only half of the users have positive experiences. In fact, a shocking 11% of female users under the age of 50 have received threats of harm. This raises concerns about the ethical implications of dating apps and begs the question: Is there a better way to develop these platforms?

Dating apps have undoubtedly made it easier to find sexual and romantic partners, expanding the pool of potential mates to include the entire internet. Research reveals that about 10% of heterosexual people and 24% of LGBTQ+ individuals have met their long-term partner online. However, alongside these positive outcomes, dating apps have also introduced or modernized various ethical concerns associated with dating.

Prior to the advent of dating apps, people often met partners through family, friends, or work, which provided a level of vetting and trust. In contrast, when you meet someone on an app, you have little knowledge about their background or character beyond what they choose to disclose. This shift towards more private and individualized interactions has increased the potential for negative or harmful experiences.

Dating apps offer features that allow users to control how they present themselves and refine their dating pool using filters. Many perceive this as a helpful and liberating tool to express their identity and meet like-minded individuals. In fact, there are even dating apps exclusive to people with specific political views. However, the ability to be discerning in choosing potential partners also opens the door to unjust discrimination. People are often swiped away or filtered out based on race, ability, class, and appearance. Disturbingly, statistics reveal that 99.8% of young black male sexual minority users have experienced some form of racialized sexual discrimination, and only 3% of contacts initiated by white people are made to black individuals. Furthermore, disabled people have reported receiving insulting, pitying, or aggressive comments, casting doubts on their ability to engage in sexual relationships.

Another concern with dating apps lies in their design, specifically how elements and rewards are utilized to keep users engaged, making the experience akin to playing a game. As a result, users may find themselves behaving in ways that conflict with their own values. While someone may seek meaningful and nuanced interactions or committed romantic love, the lure of notifications and the tendency to engage in numerous sporadic conversations can lead to disconnection and alienation. Ghosting, abruptly ending an interaction without explanation, is one such behavior that may seem disrespectful but may be perceived as a logical response when apps consistently lead to empty conversations or even harassment.

Interestingly, using dating apps can also become an activity in itself, shifting away from a means to meet people and transforming into a source of attention, validation, and sexual intrigue conveniently stored in your pocket.

Lastly, dating apps encourage users to objectify one another through quick judgments based primarily on appearance. Whether it’s the rapid swiping through profile pictures on apps like Tinder or the visual grid of torsos on Grindr, these apps make dismissing potential partners as easy as taking a single glance.

In light of these ethical concerns, relationship ethicists suggest several potential solutions. One proposal is to incorporate transparency in app design by providing more information about users’ backgrounds, values, and life experiences. This would help foster trust and create a sense of connection beyond the surface level. Additionally, dating apps could implement algorithms that reduce discriminatory practices by ensuring equal representation and opportunities for users of all races, abilities, and social backgrounds. Furthermore, ethical guidelines and education around respectful behavior within dating apps can help address the issue of ghosting and create a more considerate and compassionate environment for users.

It is clear that the current landscape of dating apps raises important ethical questions. However, with thoughtful consideration and the implementation of these proposed solutions, it is possible to create a more inclusive, respectful, and fulfilling experience for users worldwide.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it