HBO’s “Swiped” — The Demise of Romance through Online Hook Ups

A documentary look at how our dating lives are essentially screwed.

Last night I watched the documentary, Swiped: Hooking up in the Digital Age by director Nancy Jo Sales. A film that was previously mentioned in last week’s U Up? Podcast — the New York based auditory bible on all things dating - when Nancy Jo appeared as a featured guest to discuss her opinions and research on what it means to be searching for love via the Internet.

If you’ve read my latest article, Dating in the Digital Age, you already know that I’m not a supporter of finding a romantic entanglement online. And even though the numbers of users on dating applications are indeed staggering, I can’t say I’m alone in these feelings of disdain for where the future of our relationships are headed.

The documentary follows a group of young 20 somethings in Austin, Texas and New York City as they navigate the culture of romance via platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grindr. From casual hookups to full on flings and even brief stints of complicated relationships — the film depicts the range of relationships that come from our swiping behaviors.

Although I found the conversations of the characters to echo the dialogue I have almost daily with my own friends — the representation of their opinions and viewpoints felt far too singular, too accepting of an invention that truthfully doesn’t seem to be entirely well received.

The discourse between genders was predictable — men liked the application for its easy access to never-ending hookups, women were searching for relationships with little to luck of finding someone serious — opinions we’ve heard countless times before, an epidemic of conversations played on a loop.

I’m not suggesting that the documentary was wrong in fleshing out this form of dialogue, in fact it’s possible that there wouldn’t have been an alternate view point for them to include. To me, I’m not surprised by the concept of tipping scales when it comes to romantic equality between men and women on dating applications — in truth, it makes complete sense.

What is hard to understand and probably the most complex ideology that I can’t wrap my head around is — If a whole subset of people using these applications are unimpressed by their options and results, why do we collectively subscribe to continuing to engage in dating practices and behaviors we are dissatisfied with?

No one is forcing your hand to sign up for these dating applications. Having a profile on Tinder or Bumble or Hinge isn’t compulsory to function within our society. Yet, the documentary reveals that the numbers of active users in the online dating sphere are in the tens of millions.

If you think that dating applications were created to help you find your true love and lasting relationship — I hate to be the one to burst this bubble of misplaced illusion. From the words of Tinder’s Cofounder — the application was an invention designed to disrupt the marketplace. A scheme that was less about dating and more focused on cracking open a new, inventive way to build capital through online spaces.

To the inventors, there was no deep, unyielding passion to create a tool for better interactions or more meaningful experiences — it was concocted by the hands of technology gurus, now sitting pretty on their thrones of wealth in Silicon Valley.

Nancy Jo Sales does an impeccable job of analyzing what the true intentions of any dating application really are — a nod at the capitalism of big business that has in turn rendered these founders an insurmountable amount of money. I have to admit that I never thought about the fiscal gain that comes from my activity online — how my personal actions and engagement on applications are placing more money into the hands of somewhat questionable companies.

The best part about the film was the hard truth that the revolution of new age dating applications, with the inception of Tinder, were created by the minds of young boys, not men. Anyone who has ever used these applications can clearly see that the makeup and design were barely, if at all influenced by the sensitivity and thoughtfulness that comes from female centric logic.

When placed into the hands of young boys, we are left with applications that value visual stimulation over everything else. Personal information is left at the wayside, a mere after thought that is referenced once you’ve matched with a potential suitor as a means to crafting a conversation. And in some ways, this makes the playing field appear uneven. While men swipe right and juggle multiple conversations, the documentary research shows that women on dating applications are less about quantity and more focused on engaging in a selective process of seeking quality partners.

This isn’t to say that every women is searching for a serious relationship on dating applications. There is undeniable power in establishing what you want, even if that means an interest in more casual encounters — there has never been a better time of sexual freedom for women. Although, we as women can choose to search for less commitment on the dating applications, the research concludes that the majority of females are swiping in hopes of finding a relationship.

So, if dating applications are just big businesses dedicated to the off balanced concept of hook up culture — what does that say about the future of relationships?

Sometimes, it feels that romance is dead. That even when you’re with someone, there is the possibility they are still swiping in the background, securing an alternate option in case things go south. I guess we have to ask ourselves, do we even know what it means to build and establish lasting trust in our romantic relationships? Or are we looking to run away at any moment of trouble or dissatisfaction, ready to jump back into the pool of available options?

The film showed that this culture of dating doesn’t have to continue to become our new normal. There is nothing stopping society from pushing back against this technology in hopes of creating more meaningful, in person interactions.

Will there ever be a world again without dating applications? Or has the boom of tech centered advances changed the way we will forever coexist?

The question isn’t a matter of if or how we can change the cycle, but rather whether or not we’re willing to disrupt the monster and put an end to the technology of love.

Shannon Ciricillo