Like many things in life, using a dating app here in Jersey is slightly different to how it works in the rest of the world.
It doesn't seem all that long ago that the idea of meeting someone from the internet, in any context, was largely taboo. Our childhoods were filled with 'Stranger Danger' and stark warnings against getting in a car with someone you don't know, or even answering the door to an unknown.
But the Millennial generation have been the first to grow up with the internet as a constant presence, and to whom being connected to and communicating with strangers all over the world is a daily occurrence. In 2018 we think nothing of ordering a stranger to come and pick us up in a Jersey Lift or allowing people on Instagram to influence our lives, so it makes sense that the dating scene has followed the same patterns.
Match.com started the revolution way back in 1995 and was swiftly followed by a host of copycats. By the mid-2000s there were dating sites available for every imaginable niche. From Christianmingle to VeggieDate and the controversial AshleyMadison promoting ex-marital affairs, singles (and not-so-singles) could seek matches based on their favourite books, preference for beards or unbridled love of Disney.
But even at that stage there remained a stigma attached to the idea of turning to the internet to find love. It was still considered at best a desperate measure, and at worst a sure way to throw yourself in the path of a serial killer. I remember back in 2006 meeting someone through an online forum, and both being slightly cagey when it came to explaining how we met to our families. Somehow saying that we were introduced by mutual friends seemed more legitimate and less likely to invite questions or raised eyebrows than telling the truth.
It wasn't really until the dawn of smartphones and apps that online dating really became something mainstream and socially acceptable.
With an impressive 50 million users worldwide (including 5% of the entire Australian population) it's Tinder that leads the now crowded market-place. Launched in 2012, the app now boasts 1.6 billion 'swipes' each day, resulting in 26 million matches. Simplicity is the key to this popularity; there are no lengthy questionnaires to complete or fancy algorithms employed, swipes right (yes) or left (no) are based purely on first impressions and once a mutual interest has been shown it opens the facility to chat and get to know each other a little better.
Like many things in life, using a dating app here in Jersey is slightly different to how it works in the rest of the world. For starters, depending on your filters, it takes around 10 minutes to swipe through all of the suggested matches before they're exhausted, and no matter how tight your location settings are, expect to see a lot of French profiles. Personally I've done a little swiping in other places (for research purposes only you understand) and it seems to me like the singles in Jersey make significantly less effort with their profiles than those who may be up against more competition elsewhere. On the upside the app becomes useful in a different way in such a small population. It's almost inevitable that you're going to bump into people you've swiped in the real world, and knowing in advance that they're also single and looking makes it a little easier to flash a smile or start a conversation than it might otherwise be.
Although Tinder carries a reputation as a 'hook-up' app, in my experience that doesn't often seem to be the case. Perhaps that is another quirk of island dating life; are we more cautious about making slightly sleazier intentions known, as the luxury of anonymity doesn’t apply here?
While there are certainly positives to this method of meeting people becoming main-stream, not least providing a solution for those whose lifestyle or career makes conventional methods tricky, it's important not to ignore the drawbacks. Whilst 80% of users claim to be looking for a long term relationship, with all the compromise we know that involves, the perception that the next match is only a swipe away has a tendency to make people become fickle, thinking nothing of ditching a date and moving on in a constant search of something better, and regardless of the feelings of the person they've rejected. This in turn means dating apps aren't a great place for anyone lacking in self-confidence; it's tough to take when someone you feel like you've been getting on with just disappears without a word.
For better or for worse, with 19% of couples marrying in 2017 reporting that they met online, it seems like the apps are here to stay, and will continue to evolve with technology and ever-changing attitudes. Perhaps in another couple of decades we’ll be so accustomed to scoping any potential match out online first that we’ll raise eyebrows at the thought of getting together any other way? Watch this space.