How Dating Apps Changed Romance in the 2010s

It's cool to be vulnerable–sort of.


Why is Sharon Stone, one of the world's most prominent "sex symbols," using a dating app?

If you're not sure, then you're out of touch with how online love will be in the 2020s. Since the dawn of online dating in the mid-1990s, we've come full circle from shaming online romance to trying it out "ironically" to swiping right on possible mates while waiting in line at Starbucks.

When the 61-year-old actress (of salacious Basic Instinct fame) took to Twitter to lament that she'd been blocked from Bumble because users were reporting her profile was fake, we were collectively reminded that online dating's become too prosaic to exclude celebrities. "Hey @bumble, is being me exclusionary? Don't shut me out of the hive," she tweeted. Soon the company reinstated her account, with Bumble's editorial director Clare O'Connor stating, "Trust us, we *definitely* want you on the Hive."

In fact, the hive is buzzing, and not just on Bumble. Seven years ago, five dudes and one woman launched Tinder. Today, dating apps are estimated to be a $12 billion dollar industry in 2020. As swiping has creeped into our daily rituals, critics have fretted that dating has been superficially "gamified" by Tinder, killed off the subtlety of courtship, and resulted in a "dating apocalypse" that's prioritized sexual gratification over genuine human connection.

Earlier this year, writer Derek Thompson tweeted a simple graph showing Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld's 10 years of research on how modern heterosexual couples meet. While he expected the data to point out the obvious to people, the general response was despair at the emptiness of modern existence, marked by "heightened isolation and a diminished sense of belonging within communities," as one user noted (which is an impressive impact for a sociologist to have on the Twitterverse, so kudos to Rosenfield, who received a barrage of messages on his own social media accounts). It's the opposite of the 1950s' "stranger danger," Thompson noted, to the extent that finding a partner is like ordering on Amazon. Like online shopping, we're struck with choice paralysis when confronted with seemingly every conceivable fish in the sea.

Is modern love emotionally bankrupt? Is our reliance on technology trapping us in isolated bubbles of ids and impulses? Eh, maybe. But one overarching effect of searching for a potential partner online is that we have to get very clever at communication, or at least faking it through shorthand. From cringey neologisms like "sapiosexual" or "lumbersexual," listing your Meyers-Briggs personality type, or inexplicably sticking your baby photo in the middle of your profile, what makes us stand out from the nameless, impersonal crowd is personal details–or, as Brene Brown loves to say, "the power of being vulnerable."

For instance, as universally appalling as identifying as a "sapiosexual" (one who is attracted to intelligence) is, the unfortunate trend took off because it "fill[ed] a gap between the language we have available and the language we need to find connection in the online dating world," Mashable noted. Psychologist, author, and sex coach Liz Powell emphasized the importance of communication via dating app: "On the internet, all you have is words. So while IRL you can watch how someone interacts with others or dances, online you just have what you type at each other." She added, "Sapiosexuality is a highly controversial term these days because of the ways it can enshrine classist, ableist, sexist, and racist ideas about what it means to be 'smart.'" But, at its core, the word is emblematic of our desire to be seen as individuals rather than a profile picture. The CEO of a dating app exclusively designed to appeal to self-identifying sapiosexuals, called Sapio, even acknowledges, "For many, defining oneself as sapiosexual has become [a] statement against the current status quo of hookup culture and superficiality, where looks are prized above all else." It's a white flag of surrender to hookup culture and an odd plea to be seen holistically.

Similarly, the CEO of Hinge has noted that the latest approach to online dating values "authentic and vulnerable" profiles. The app grew in popularity because of its requirement to answer distinct and personal questions on your profile, such as "the most personal thing I'm willing to admit," "pet peeves," "I will never tell my grandchildren," or "what I am thankful for."

Undoubtedly, we're still grappling with the linguistic challenges of presenting a curated online version of ourselves that appeals to strangers within the average three to seven seconds we have before being sentenced to a swipe left or right. But maybe the bright side of our Instagram-laden, commodified, and robot-driven daily rituals is that our banal, unsexy humanity is becoming one of our most appreciated assets—even if we don't look like Sharon Stone.


I don't really use Facebook, because they're famous for mishandling and abusing user information.

I'm also in a long-term, committed relationship, so when I heard about Facebook Dating, my first thought was, "Wow, there's literally nothing less up my alley than this!" But I was still kind of curious. With all the dating apps on the market, who in their right mind would want to find love through gross Facebook? I imagined a wasteland populated by only the most desperate people and boomers who can't figure out how to download Tinder. But I'm a real journalist. Imagination is worthless. I needed to see for myself if I wanted to write a Facebook Dating review.

So I made a Facebook Dating profile and documented my journey.

Facebook Dating is kind of annoying to find. It's actually part of the standard Facebook app (which, again, nobody should ever use, because it's probably stealing your data without your consent), so you have to navigate to the far reaches of the crappy mobile interface to access Facebook dating at all.

Facebook Dating

Once I made it in, Facebook wanted to know which "option(s)" I most closely identified with. This seemed pretty par for the course, but kudos to Facebook for including trans and non-binary folks (I hope that kind of inclusivity is common in dating services nowadays, but considering I haven't been on the dating scene in 7 years, I have no idea).

Facebook Dating

Then Facebook asked me who I'm interested in seeing. I selected everyone, because I'm an equal opportunist, and I don't want Facebook to have any information about my sexual preferences.

Facebook Dating

After I told Facebook which genders I'm interested in boning, they wanted to see a good photo of me. Their default selection was my Facebook profile picture, which I do, indeed, think is a good photo of me. Or as one guy said to me in a comment once, "Put down the bong."

Facebook assured me that even though my dating profile is technically attached to my standard Facebook profile, the two will operate mostly separately, kind of like China's "one country, two systems" bullsh*t. Make no mistake, Facebook will be gorging itself on the information in your dating profile.

Considering Facebook already has all my info, they're willing to help me fill in some information to optimize my sexual prospects. Thanks Zuck!

Facebook Dating

Facebook wanted me to describe myself in "three sentences, three words, or three emojis." I'm also only in L.A. for the weekend, because I'm attending a wedding. I don't expect Facebook to know that, but I feel it's an important fact to note.

Okay, I went with emojis. I chose a bicep because I like working out, sushi because I like eating sushi, and an American flag because I'm a "real American patriot" who loves our great nation and bleeds red, white, and blue.

Facebook Dating

I went with "Staff Writer" for occupation, because in L.A. everyone will think I write for a TV show, which is very cool; and also, everyone in L.A. is a liar, so I don't mind tricking them. Also, I don't believe in God, but I'm at least somewhat sure we live in a Matrix-like simulation and that I'm the only "real" person. Unfortunately, I can't prove these assertions, and Facebook's religion options don't go that deep. So I selected "Agnostic."

Facebook Dating

Facebook thought this more recent picture of me was pretty decent, too, and I agee. It's of me giving a thumbs up at an Italian restaurant, which hopefully tells prospective partners that I'm a guy who loves being in Italian restaurants.

Facebook Dating

Facebook also seemed to like this picture of me from when I shaved off all my facial hair except for my mustache. My girlfriend said I "looked like a joke," but I'm pretty sure Facebook knows better than she does.

Facebook Dating

After showing me my best faces, Facebook prompted me to "Answer a Question," which they seemed to suggest will help connect me with people who have similar interests. Facebook then asked about something I'm embarrassed to admit I love, presumably because it wants to collect fodder to use against me at some point. I answered truthfully.

Facebook Dating

After answering a few more questions, Facebook completed my profile. This will help me stand out from the crowd.

Facebook Dating

Facebook Dating also has a "Secret Crush" feature. Under normal circumstances, you won't see friends of yours in your dating pool. But if you mark your friend as a "Secret Crush," they'll get a notification that someone has a crush on them if they ever sign up for Facebook dating, too. Then, if they happen to select you as a crush, you'll both be notified. You can select up to nine friends as crushes, because the chances of f*cking your friends are better when you cast a wide net. I selected my girlfriend and notified her of my crush in person, because she hasn't been on Facebook in five years.

Facebook Dating

Facebook automatically assumed my ideal age range for a partner would be "20-34." I corrected this to "20-100+" because how dare they assume what I like? And that's it, the final step! My dating profile is complete, and I'm ready to hit the Facebook dating scene to see who else has entered this personal information-scraping hellscape.

Facebook Dating

Oh. They're not suggesting people in my area yet.'s literally just me. I'm completely alone on Facebook Dating. Might as well have a cartoon piña colada, eh Facebook?

Facebook Dating

From the bottom of my heart, f*ck you Mark Zuckerberg.


Empathy for Incels

Separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.

Original image from

Technically speaking, dating is easier now than it has been at any other point in human history.

Even in the early 2000s, a person's relationship options were largely limited to the people they knew through work, school, or their local community––meeting new people meant going to a bar and hoping to click with whoever happened to be there that night. Today, the options are limitless. Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble expand potential relationships from social circles to entire cities. On the modern dating circuit, everything is public and everyone seems to be hooking up. But in a hyper-connected world, people who can't seem to make connections feel lonelier than ever before.

Incels are people who self-identify as "involuntarily celibate" and participate in an online subculture marked by rampant sexism, hate speech, and conspiratorial thinking mixed with intense self-loathing. It's easy to write them off as just another group of entitled, mostly-male reactionaries who are angry about the modern equality movement and the increased social clout women are gaining. After all, the political landscape is rife with those (see Gamergate). Considering the type of rhetoric commonly found on incel forums––expressions of admiration for the "Supreme Gentleman" Elliot Rodger are not uncommon, for instance––anything short of outright condemnation of the entire incel subculture can be seen as condoning a dangerous hive of radicalization.

And yet, while incel ideology is dogmatic, dangerous, and inherently flawed, recognizing that the experiences they stem from are overwhelmingly human––pain, loneliness, social anxiety, and self-loathing––might bring to light new solutions that could lead incels to genuinely recovering and reacclimating into modern society. So, too, could the acknowledgement that incels aren't just born from dangerous, sexist feelings of entitlement, at least not at first, and while their larger ideology certainly sits upon a heap of misconceptions, there might be a kernel of truth somewhere at the bottom.

The Cut recently published a phenomenal article about incel plastic surgery, a growing trend whereby incels seek cosmetic surgery to fix perceived facial flaws in order to become more "Chad-like." To clarify, incel subculture calls the most attractive men, who "hoard" most of the world's sex with women (or so they believe), Chads. Chads are men with square jaws and prominent brows, but they can also be lithe or vampiric as long as they possess an aesthetic that Stacys and Beckys––attractive blonde women and basically every other kind of woman, respectively––typically find hot.

zac efron shirtless Zac Efron, total Chad. MCCFL / Splash News

While some incels who opt-in for this kind of cosmetic surgery experience a noticeable difference in their lives afterwards, specifically in the way they're treated by others, many find that their lives don't change very much at all. The core subject of the article, a man who uses the alias Truth4lie, is stuck in an endless cycle of surgeries, post-op elation, discovering a new flaw, suicidal ideation, and then more surgery. Ultimately, his account suggests extreme body dysmorphia, an isolating mental illness far more likely to cause "involuntary celibacy" than his perceived physical flaws.

In fact, the most standout revelation upon browsing many incel forums is that the users––on the rare occasions they post pictures of themselves for critique––are usually pretty average looking guys. Granted, many of them are not, but they're not hideous or grotesque either. Countless men who are just as "ugly" by conventional measures of attractiveness can be found on dates in every restaurant in every major city. So, then, what's really "wrong" with incels?

incel chin The difference between an incel and a Chad according to

The answer most likely varies from person to person, but chances are high that two common scenarios account for most members of the community. The first is mental illness and neurological atypicalities, which manifest in multiple ways that could lead to "inceldom." One, as outlined in The Cut's article, is body dysmorphia. Others might include social anxiety, depression, or autism––anything that causes one to feel isolated or leads to confusion regarding social contacts. The second is the possibility that these individuals are genuinely physically unattractive and don't have the proper tools or social skills to make up for that disadvantage when dating.

The underlying issues for both groups of incels––and there's likely a good deal of overlap between the two––make their initial involvement in incel communities all the more understandable. Connection with others is a core human need, and long-term loneliness can lead to severe mental and physical repercussions, from insomnia to suicide. For people in circumstances like these, incel communities offer support and a soothing––albeit incorrect––scapegoat for their problems.

"The black pill" is the incel community's core ideological offering: the fatalistic, sexist "truth" of biological determinism––that unattractive men are simply doomed to be rejected by the selfish, shallow creatures known as women. Black pill ideology is repugnant and patently disproven by every single average and below average-looking guy in a healthy relationship. But for someone who has convinced himself that his face is the bane of his own existence and for whom every glance in the mirror is a brutal takedown, black pill ideology shoulders the burden of rejection through absolute affirmation. Black pill ideology says, "Yes, you are ugly, and no, your lot can't be changed." For someone struggling and failing to climb out of a dark, deep, lonely pit, that kind of affirmation, however damaging, can seem like a ray of light.

Perhaps, then, the best solution to dealing with inceldom is offering that same sort of empathy and understanding to struggling people before they turn to incel communities in the first place. The most common "normie" advice (which is always derided by incels) is that if someone wants a girlfriend, all they need to do is "hit the gym and take a bath." This suggests that the core problem incels suffer from is poor hygiene and bad lifestyle choices. But while this may be true for some incels, hitting the gym and taking a bath won't solve deep-seated psychological ailments, pervasive neuroses, or self-hatred.

The truth is that dating is significantly harder for people with mental illnesses or social anxiety. And dating is way, way harder for physically unattractive people. That being said, attractiveness is not stagnant or binary, and plenty of traditionally unattractive people find love and hold successful, lasting relationships with people who subjectively find them attractive. The solution is not to demonize incels for their flawed reasoning, but rather to destigmatize therapy for men, along with undoing so many other traditional, rigid standards that dictate what is and isn't "masculine." Ideally, with genuine empathy and support structures in place, incels wouldn't become incels in the first place.

Unfortunately, incel communities aren't just limited to sad affirmations––empathy would be a lot easier in that case. Black pilling naturally leads to anger and resentment, mainly directed towards women. These views compound and fester within echo chambers, oftentimes resulting in genuine hatred and, sometimes, real-world violence. But separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.


Filipa's "I'd Rather be Single" Video is a Dose of Satire and Self-Empowerment

Filipa mocks dating game shows and delivers an anthem of self-respect.

South African pop artist, Filipa, first soared to international recognition by winning a cover song competition on

Her rendition of One Direction's "Story of My Life" showcased her powerful voice and dynamic emotional range. Winning this contest not only bolstered her popularity in South Africa, but it also granted Filipa the platform she needed to focus on releasing original songs. From there, she released her debut single, "Chills," to critical acclaim and followed it up with "Little White Lie," which rocketed up the iTunes charts and dominated South African airwaves. Now, with the release of her new music video, "I'd Rather be Single," Filipa looks to expand her reach beyond South Africa.

The video begins with Filipa and a friend, lazing on the couch, watching TV. Filipa is visibly upset over a boy who, we find out, is not returning her texts. With a mouthful of popcorn, the friend advises Filipa to get rid of him, and just as Filipa is about to explain why she keeps him around, the other woman interrupts her because one of her favorite shows comes on. The show in question is a parody of those vapid dating game shows that dominated the mid-'90s and early aughts (think MTV's Singled Out). A different version of Filipa appears as the object of affection for which three cheesy dudes are to compete.

The rest of the video is a seamless blend of skits in which Filipa asks the contestants questions, and they give comically disconcerting answers and footage of the how the show farcically plays itself out to the music.

In a written statement Filipa said, "The dating world is so strange and demanding these days, which makes it hard to find that special someone who understands you, supports you and treats you right […] A lot of people stay in relationships in hopes of the other person changing or finally being the type of person they deserve, which starts to become taxing on their own happiness and leads to more tension and heartbreak down the line. I think knowing your worth and respecting yourself first is the key to being happy in and out of a relationship."

"I'd Rather be Single" is a refreshingly positive anthem of self-empowerment that is all too rare in pop music – hopefully this universally salient message resonates with audiences far and wide.

Filipa - I'd Rather Be Single (Official Music Video)

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

POP⚡DUST |

Your Favorite Childhood Shows Most In Need of a Reboot

To J.K. Rowling and "Supernatural": Queer-baiting Isn't Creative License

Cboyardee: The Man Who Shaped 4chan


I'm an Asian Woman on Tinder: An Analysis of My Inbox

Shame is a social construct in the age of the eggplant emoji.

James Jean/VertigoFrom the cover of 'Fables' #33

I've been lying about using dating apps since 2012.

In order of appearance in my life, Tinder, OkCupid, CoffeeMeetsBagel, Bumble, and Hinge have all occupied space on my shitty phone. I've shared my personal details with strangers who are probably in their underwear or on the toilet all over New York City. I love it. The most interesting conversations are profane and precious, like baby teeth or blood diamonds. They always start the same way–with an abrasive, sweaty message, oblivious to the boundaries of the social contract and grammatical correctness.

Full disclosure: This is me. Hi, Internet. I'm sorry I find oversharing so funny.Tinder

I figured out the best way to enjoy Tinder is to switch phones with a friend of any gender and delve into the dating world from their perspective. This way, I've gotten to experience dating apps as a 24-year-old Egyptian-American film student, a 23-year-old tall, blond social media manager, and a 31-year-old MFA-holder from Queens who bears a striking resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch. In return, my friends have stepped into my shoes as a 5-foot-tall, 28-year-old Korean-American chick in Brooklyn. I'm fascinated with the kinds of restrained, polite messages they receive, and they've experienced firsthand some of the bizarre, fervent, and emoji-laden love notes that fill my inbox.



Being Asian on a dating app makes for a unique experience. Last year, Adam Chen published his dispirited take on Buzzfeed News: "Being Asian On Tinder Means Getting Rejected Or Fetishized And Neither Feels Good." As an Asian-American male, he fits neither the exotic FOB ("fresh off the boat") persona or weird effeminate K-pop vibe. He describes being subjected to the uncomfortable attention of someone who has "yellow fever," as well as the outright rejection of rarely receiving Tinder's congratulatory "You've matched!" message.

As an Asian female, my experience is vastly different from that of an Asian male, though just as hopeless about today's avoidant, unromantic, online dating culture. Thanks to the rich and creative history of Western culture exoticizing and objectifying Asian women, I get a lot of matches. I get too many matches. I get a disturbing amount of matches. Some of the actual introductory messages I've received have included, "I didn't know Asians could have freckles!" (in fact, they cannot. I'm just a genetic experiment gone wrong), as well as, "Please like me back, I need more Asian friends!" (Yes, exclamation marks are genuine).

Yet, I've detected fascinating patterns to the type of messages I receive, especially under the free-for-all policies of Tinder and OkCupid. When I change my app's settings to seek men between ages 21 and 45 (seeking other women on Tinder deserves its own study), an inordinate amount of messages are from senders in the 35-45 age bracket. This could be indicative that older single men on dating apps are too aware of their own mortality to feel shame; or, I could interpret this as a demoralizing sign of Woody Allen-syndrome: young Asian women are a strange, special object of desire for older white men. Either way, after seven years of studying the bizarre ethos of online dating, I'm ready to publish my official findings.

Type 1: Uncomfortable Sharing

What I've found in my studies is that there are three types of weird messages: Uncomfortable Sharing, S-E-X, and Oh No. Let's examine the first. These messages are sent unabashedly throughout the early evenings into the modest hours of the night, are from senders displaying out of focus profile pictures taken from a distance, and they often use clever pseudonyms, like MisterMajesty78. Messages range from unleashed streams of consciousness that try to compliment and impress you while also crying out for help to concrete plans to meet in person ASAP. In some instances, my friendly fellow researchers and I crafted a response to further our study of modern dating culture and why it's morally fine if none of us choose to have children.

Type 1, Specimen AOkCupid

Type 1, Specimen BTwitter

Type 2: S-E-X

The second type of message is very forward about what the sender wants, intrepid about asking for it directly, and will not-so-gently remind you that shame is a social construct in the age of the eggplant emoji. Unlike Type 1, these senders choose to communicate in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday or, more proactively, even before one's morning commute. Variations of this type include pithy one-liners meant to sexually arouse with astonishing wit, as well as requests for self-evaluation of one's willingness to experiment in the bedroom. Who knew Tinder's full of Kinsey-like sex scientists?

Type 2, Specimen ATwitter

Type 2, Specimen BTwitter

Type 2, Specimen CTwitter

Type 2, Specimen DTinder

Type 3: Oh No

This type excels in persistence. After receiving no response, the sender has no reservations about reminding you that you are ignoring him. Usually sent without any regard to the time of day or night, the speaker is very expressive of one's concern, rarely uses emojis, and often displays a selfie taken very close to his face.

Type 3, Specimen ATinder

Type 3, Specimen BTinder


This Asian woman's experience in online dating probably overlaps with most women's experiences, in that I'll never understand the assumptions single men make about what women want to hear. Is a woman obligated to respond to a message on a dating app? Of course not, and neither is a man. Everybody has a right to ignore everybody, and anyone can become a Type 3 when the average Tinder user wastes 90 minutes a day mindlessly swiping. Questions for further study include: Are dirty one-liners still used because they're ironic? Or are they so ironic now that senders are genuinely hopeful? If I were a ghost, who or where would I haunt? I hope the resident in my building always blasting EDM is willing to switch phones so I can further my studies.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

POP⚡DUST |

It's Not about Race: Colorism in Hollywood

Post-Ironic Media: How We Memed A President Into Office

Welcome to Genderqueer TV: 5 Non-Binary Characters


The new it couple: Jennifer and Sock Monkee heat things up in the office

After her fiancé, Max, walks out, Jennifer's not taking any breaks getting back in the game. This time, she's after a monkey.

Possessive smothery guys suck. They're always blowing up your phone with text messages, thinking you're out banging other guys. No, boys, it's not cute. It's pathetic.

Jennifer is in such a predicament with Max. Now, her first mistake was to trust a guy who thinks fedoras are still cool (they were never cool). After a couple of therapy sessions with Sock Monkee, he's not budging. And then things start to get weird when Sock Monkee starts messing with Max in a way only a sock monkey could do. Just watch.

[youtube expand=1]

Sock Monkee is a tricky little fuck. While Jennifer is spouting on and on about how Max doesn't listen to her and thinks of her as his "property" now that they're engaged, Max swears he sees Sock Monkee taunting him. Jennifer may just be a "piece of work," but maybe it's Max who's the crazy one here. Or, Monkee is gaslighting him, but why?

I would think I'm a little crazy too if a sock showed me his ass then flashed a whole pack of "rubbers." In real life this would sort of be classified as sexual harassment, but on the Internet, it's just hilarious. And Magnums? Apparently, this Monkee is packing.

But is every guy really trying to sleep with Jennifer? I mean, she may dress like a whore but she clearly has a long way to being marriage-material. Like for starters, maybe she shouldn't be emptying her wallet on therapy for a guy who's just going to break up with her.

Fortunately, this story has a sort of happy ending, when we find out the madness behind all of Monkee's taunting: he has the hots for Jennifer himself! The horny little bastard! And yes, it is a little unsettling to see this relationship blossom with champagne that somehow appears out of nowhere. (A Sock Monkee therapist is always prepared to seduce, I imagine.)

Will Monkee and Jennifer take their attraction to the next level? Is this monkey love, or just monkey sex? And did Max have a point that Jennifer is a whore 'cause that's the fastest rebound I've ever seen. Still, Jennifer, I'd watch out. I think you're about to find out why Monkee has handcuffs.

Stay tuned for everyone's favorite: more monkey butts.