The Failure of Dating Apps


It’s common knowledge that the relationship between young men and women has been heading the wrong direction. Marriage rates are falling, the sexes are becoming politically polarized, there are movements among both men and women to swear off relationships.

And everybody seems unhappy with dating apps. A few recent pieces highlight some of this.

Daniel Cox wrote a piece about why nobody likes dating now.

Social media is awash in stories of awful dating experiences. I cannot think of any of them that would be solved by artificial intelligence doing more of the actual dating. Singles are largely pessimistic about the way things are going in dating life. Dating apps are increasingly accused of being part of the problem. Yet, despite the steady stream of negative feedback, most dating app companies have been slow to recognize how much their users hate using them. It’s not entirely their fault. Dating has become more difficult for a host of different reasons, including the rising distrust between men and women.

Bumble seems to be doubling down on technology-focused solutions while ignoring the growing gender divide emerging in American culture. The company’s recent billboard campaign aimed at encouraging women not to give up on dating has been widely condemned on social media. One billboard message, “A Vow of Celibacy is Not the Answer,” provoked considerable blowback. On her YouTube channel, Valerie Emanuel called the billboard message “pathetic and desperate” and “offensive to women.” TikTok user Chey suggested that the ad campaign was “incredibly tone-deaf” and should have targeted men. She asked why the ad team at Bumble ignored the “cultural tensions” between men and women: “Why should women even want to date men?”

Over at City Journal, Kay Hymowitz wrote a piece about Gen Z’s gender stalemate.

Still, the trends described by The Economist, which have been replicated in other surveys, reveal a deep and ominous mistrust between the sexes. Figuring out dating and marriage norms that acknowledge contemporary women’s interests and achievements while also respecting men’s has proved immensely thorny; we’re probably not going to discover answers for such a problem soon. That Gen Z is coming of age at a time of intense political polarization only further complicates the mating game. Fewer young people, particularly women and those identifying as Democrats, are willing to date someone who doesn’t share their politics. “No Republicans” warnings have become a common sight on dating apps; there are even apps explicitly designed to keep out undesirables from the other party. You can’t just blame the kids; their parents often are not interested in a future son- or daughter-in-law from across the aisle.

With the share of never-married and childless adults already near all-time highs, the growing gender political divide is bad news—not only for Gen Z but also for an America that badly needs more strong families.

One thing I’d add to this is that while there’s a lot of talk about women’s changed expectations for men, there’s been very little about men’s expectations for women.

The very idea that men might have expectations in a relationship, or that men might have standards for women that some fall short of, is treated as essentially illegitimate.

While there’s a lot of talk about the declining “marriageability” of young men, virtually every writer simply assumes basically all women are marriageable or datable. This is not the case, something I plan to write about in the future.

Read the rest of this piece at Aaron Renn Substack.

Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker and writer on a mission to help America's cities and people thrive and find real success in the 21st century. He focuses on urban, economic development and infrastructure policy in the greater American Midwest. He also regularly contributes to and is cited by national and global media outlets, and his work has appeared in many publications, including the The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Photo: courtesy Aaron Renn.