Can dating apps help with dating fatigue?

In addition to the traditional societal pressure to be in a relationship, the proliferation of dating apps such as OkCupid, Tinder, Pure, Feels, Fruitz, and others like Raya can add to the feeling of overwhelm also known as dating fatigue. But can these apps offer a remedy to their own poison? Interview with Bumble’s senior marketing manager for France and Belgium, Meg Gagnard Duru.

After the pioneering French sites Meetic in 2001 and AdopteUnMec in 2007, the American geolocated gay dating app Grindr in 2009 inspired the creation of the mainstream Tinder in 2012. And now there is a cascade of dating apps multiplying in France like Pure, Feels, Fruitz, Gleeden, Raya, which add to the already existing sites like OkCupid. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of apps, between those for casual hookups, extramarital encounters, or even ones for celebrities. And let’s not even talk about “Droite au cœur” dedicated to “patriotic” meetings for right-wing people.

If there is something for every taste, every orientation, and gender identity, this proliferation, combined with all the societal pressures to be in a relationship at all costs, can create a feeling of exhaustion: dating fatigue.

To try to understand how to escape it, but also how apps try to alleviate it, Madmoizelle asked some questions to Meg Gagnard Duru, Senior Marketing Manager for France and Belgium at Bumble.

Interview with Meg Gagnard Duru, Senior Marketing Manager at Bumble

What did the landscape of dating sites and apps look like before the launch of Bumble in 2014?

At that time, there were mainly leading French sites, like Meetic [Editor’s note: founded in 2001] and AdopteUnMec [Editor’s note: founded in 2007]. Then came the actual dating apps like Grindr [Editor’s note: founded in the United States in 2009] and then Tinder [Editor’s note: founded in the United States in 2012]. The smartphone revolution allowed for the development of these mobile dating apps where geolocation plays an important role. It’s quite striking to see that this market is particularly occupied here.

If in France, AdopteUnMec promised to give power to women from its launch, this was not the case for other sites and apps, and that’s why Bumble stood out in the United States as it allowed women to make the first move or not. This serves to create a feeling of safety on the app, which was at the heart of the concerns of its founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd. After working for a long time at Tinder where she was the only woman in the management team, she left the company accusing her ex, Justin Mateen (who is also one of the co-founders), of harassing her. This is one of the reasons she wanted to make the dating world safer and kinder for women first and foremost. And when dating goes well for women, it goes well for everyone, all gender identities.

In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of dating apps, each more specific than the last. How do you explain this?

Almost everyone wants to find love. And we may believe that we can save time by turning to a service that gathers people around a political party, a religion, etc. I have the impression that each app is created with the goal of attracting a certain type of people so that they feel they share the same values or goals. This contributes to the vitality of this market, particularly dense in France. Perhaps because it is a country where romance plays a big role. Paris is not perceived as the capital of love for nothing. Perhaps that’s why there are so many French-made dating apps, and so many international apps that want to establish themselves and succeed here.

This proliferation of apps can also seem overwhelming and create a feeling of overflow and pressure, what we call dating fatigue. How does an app like Bumble try to combat this?

Yes, we can see that many people are on multiple apps at the same time, and may find it stressful and tiring. It’s the irony of having so many choices: as there are always more apps, we can be afraid of missing the right person on one of them, and exhaust ourselves trying to be everywhere at once. We can also feel obligated to be on them even if we don’t want to, which is really unfortunate.

To alleviate this pressure, I think it can be encouraged by spontaneity. On Bumble, after a match, you have to send a first message within 24 hours, precisely to promote this spontaneity, and to prevent overthinking and stressing out. It’s a bit like reproducing the experience of meeting someone charming in a bar, for example.

Alleviating this pressure also comes through the app’s features. You can put your profile on “Snooze”: it’s like disappearing for a while, without deleting your account. You can go “Incognito”: you can swipe others without them seeing you (if you want to avoid running into family or colleagues, for example), and only the people you have liked will then be able to see you without them knowing that you have already liked them (unless there’s a match, of course, thereafter).

There are also well-being resources on the application if you want to learn about what Bumble calls “dating burnout,” for example. How does this borrowing of the term from professional burnout show a trend among the general public to view dating as a serious job that can therefore be exhausting?

We can indeed feel frustration due to the lack of matches or disappointment after unsatisfactory dates, which can cause a feeling of distress known as “dating burnout.” This distress also results from the pressures and societal pressures to be in a relationship, which can be difficult to bear and affect mental health. This is what we try to avoid on Bumble by providing people with many resources for their well-being, but also links to associations fighting against gender-based and sexual violence. And then, you can also look for professional and/or friendly connections on Bumble, because it’s not just for sexual and/or romantic encounters.


Also read:

“Offline” Singles Parties: When Dating Apps Seek a New Lease on Life

With the rise of dating apps, there are also more and more English terms to humorously describe more or less violent practices such as “ghosting,” “cookie jarring,” “breadcrumbing,” and other “orbiting.” How do you observe this?

We owe the emergence of these terms to the younger generations who sometimes turn them into trends on TikTok, which contributes to their popularity. If Generation Z [Editor’s note: born after 1995 and before 2010] talks about it with humor, maybe there is some good in it, as it relieves pressure and allows us to describe with new words situations that may have been less common before. It’s a generation that challenges many norms, including in dating.

It’s a bit different from the millennials [or Generation Y: born from 1980 to 1995] who are perceived as a generation that works a lot, prone to burnout: we have observed that they are more likely to engage in the “jobification” of dating. That is, considering dating almost like a job, where the person you date has to tick all the boxes, which is facilitated by many apps. We will want to scrutinize their lifestyle, their CV, their hobbies, etc. But do we still take the time to ask ourselves if we felt something during the date?

As for the vocabulary of dating that borrows so much from English, I think it’s a good thing that we can name things in both positive and negative ways. I don’t know if this contributes to normalizing micro-aggressions, but I think it helps to become aware of them, at least. If things go wrong, we must be able to understand their outlines, name them to raise awareness and denounce them, rather than minimize them.

How can dating apps play a role in emotional and sexual education?

Bumble is a company with strong values of kindness, safety, equality, and inclusivity, so we are committed and proactive on these subjects. For example, we participated in making “cyber-flashing” [Editor’s note: the sending of unsolicited nude photos to someone] punishable by law in the UK, which has been the case since March 2022. This is already prohibited in France, but we are also working to pass a similar law for the entire European Union. We have teams on the app dedicated to handling reports on this issue. We have also developed a feature that recognizes nude photos at the time of sending, in order to ask the sender again if they are sure, and to present it blurred by default to the recipient who must then double-click knowingly to unblur it, as a way to consent to seeing it. This “private detector” is an open-source technology that we make available to other companies. It is through a multitude of things that we can contribute to emotional and sexual education as an app. This example of the “private detector” helps to raise public awareness that sending and receiving nude photos is not a trivial act, and that it requires the consent of all parties, otherwise it can be punishable. Even today, many people do not know that sending an unsolicited “dickpic” is an act of violence, and even a crime in some countries like France.

Since apps are increasingly part of people’s emotional lives, it also becomes their responsibility to participate in all this awareness.


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