The paradoxes of modern dating

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More than a decade after Tinder introduced the swipe, many Americans are sick of dating apps. As I explored in a recent for The Atlantic, the cracks are starting to show in what looked to be the foundation of modern dating. Now young people are yearning for a version of dating they may have never experienced—and that may have never truly existed, my colleague Faith Hill . I spoke with Faith this week about how dating has evolved, and what people misunderstand about the purpose of dating apps.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

The Mysteries of the Heart

Lora Kelley: In your article, you wrote that young people are longing for serendipitous connections or meet-cutes. Why is that?

Faith Hill: Many young people dating now have never dated without the apps. But we have all these romantic comedies where people are meeting strangers and falling in love, and young people are still hearing stories, sometimes from their parents, about how couples met. We still have a romantic ideal that does not involve dating apps. It’s easy to idealize spontaneous “meet-cutes” both because they’re so romanticized in our culture and because they’re kind of the opposite of online dating.

Apps are quite practical. You go out and you seek something intentionally. That gives you some agency, but it also takes away the appealing mythical element at the heart of the meet-cute: this idea that your relationship was meant to be.

Lora: How does living in a world of apps affect people’s understanding of what dating is?

Faith: For one thing, we’re now used to reducing the risk of rejection. Apps let you confirm someone is interested, to some degree, before you meet up—and that also creates a kind of built-in layer of consent, however imperfect.

Dating apps also give people more options. That’s good and bad. We should expect a lot from our partners and not just feel stuck with the only prospect. But it can also create the feeling that there’s always someone better out there.

Lora: To what extent have shifting norms around flirting with strangers reshaped how people meet and date?

Faith: People do still meet out and about. But it’s not an amazing fit for today’s culture. We have this idea of meeting someone in a grocery store while reaching for the same cantaloupe or whatever. But many of us don’t actually want strangers talking to us in the grocery store—that can feel like an intrusion. And I think it’s a good thing that we are more sensitive now to what might feel pushy or creepy. What seemed normal to characters in TV shows such as Sex and the City probably wouldn’t fly today.

Lora: While I was reporting my article on dating apps, a researcher suggested to me that even if all of the apps were to go bankrupt overnight, something similar would pop up in their place, because people have come to really value having this type of dedicated way to meet. What do you make of this?

Faith: People will keep finding a way to meet romantic interests, and companies will try to innovate. Our society has become more structured and less spontaneous in many areas, including dating. Even though many people are getting frustrated with dating apps, they do like having a structured way to meet people who are eligible and looking to date. You can see that with speed dating and the resurgence of matchmakers.

Lora: A lot of the main dating apps are trying to get users to pay for extra features and subscriptions. But even the most expensive dating-app algorithm or service cannot guarantee that you will meet someone you like. Is the root of the problem just that people are people, and it’s hard to pair individuals who will actually like each other?

Faith: It’s hard to predict whether two people will be compatible, partly because that sort of connection comes about as two people interact. How two people feel about each other can unfold from what they happen to talk about in a conversation, whether they hit on something that they have in common or both find funny. We keep trying to find a way to figure love out, but the truth is that it’s difficult, and it takes luck.

Lora: The mysteries of the human heart are great.

Faith: Yes, and that’s true both on and offline. Honestly, apps are a way to meet people, not a way to date people. Once you have met, your relationship becomes its own thing—and it’s not so different from if you had met in a bar.

The enigma of other people isn’t a bad thing, though. People don’t really want love to be a totally solvable science. Meet-cute nostalgia speaks to that. On the one hand, we like the idea of an algorithm that’ll give us someone who is great for us, but on the other hand, we still have this hunger for love being weird and complicated and hard to pin down.


Today’s News

  1. Israel that hit a major air base near nuclear sites in central Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran’s nuclear sites were not damaged.
  2. The House voted to advance a that would send aid to Ukraine, Israel, and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, and includes legislation that could lead to a nationwide ban of TikTok.
  3. A man set himself near the New York City courthouse in which Donald Trump is on trial for criminal charges.


Evening Read

The Atlantic / Getty

The Problem With Counterfeit People

By Daniel C. Dennett

The philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, known for his musings on free will, religion, and evolution, died earlier today. We’re revisiting his 2023 essay on the “immoral act of vandalism” committed by companies that use AI to create fake people.

Money has existed for several thousand years, and from the outset counterfeiting was recognized to be a very serious crime, one that in many cases calls for capital punishment because it undermines the trust on which society depends. Today, for the first time in history, thanks to artificial intelligence, it is possible for anybody to make counterfeit people who can pass for real in many of the new digital environments we have created. These counterfeit people are the most dangerous artifacts in human history, capable of destroying not just economies but human freedom itself. Before it’s too late (it may well be too late already) we must outlaw both the creation of counterfeit people and the “passing along” of counterfeit people. The penalties for either offense should be extremely severe, given that civilization itself is at risk.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break


Read. These are best enjoyed like novels, read in their entirety.

Watch. Ripley (out now on Netflix) stars Andrew Scott as a man who masters the , Hillary Kelly writes.

Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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