'Smart' Dating Technology May Be Making Us Relationship-Stupid

Oren Aks/Thrillist
Oren Aks/Thrillist

Thanks to the wonder of dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, you can get laid faster than your Seamless order will arrive at your doorstep. And while online romance once upon a time felt forbidden and offensive, today we’ve become the internet predators our parents warned us about.

But not only are we using apps to find love, we’re using them to rank it. And should a one-night stand turn into something more serious, you can now download an app like StayGo to help rate your relationship and determine whether it’s, well... relation-shit.

But with every new bit of "smart" technology, we have to ask: is all this digital assistance making us dumber about navigating relationships? Is it possible we really can't tell on our own if our relationships suck?

'Dating blind' means trusting the Force... or the 4G

If you find yourself thinking that dating just isn’t what it used to be, you’re right. "The modern dating world has changed with the popularity of dating apps," says Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor and department chair of psychology at Monmouth University and co-founder of StayGo. "As a result, now more than ever, people are dating blind. Very few people receive any formal education or training in fostering quality relationships.”

The only tool we’re using to find a wifey, is Wi-Fi. So with little in the way of a traditional foundation to build a relationship -- you know, like a shared community or belief system -- people have nothing more than a few profile pics and (hopefully) quippy bio to go on.

Looking at it in that way, it’s no wonder people resort to the only resource they have: the internet.

Talk ain’t cheap

Whatever happened to couple’s therapy? Dr. Lewandowski is quick to point out that StayGo and other similar apps aren't there to replace or imitate therapy -- rather to function as a “check-up or indicator” on the present status of your relationship. After toying around with it, the app does provide a new way of looking at your relationships and forces you to answer questions you may not have dared to ask yourself, questions that might prompt you to seek therapy. Basically, StayGo pulls information from social feedback and "scientific methods" to judge the viability of your relationships.

And different from your ongoing therapy sessions, StayGo is free.

Like it or not, apps are the modern-day crutch

Whether they’re being used for good or for evil, app addiction is a real thing. Especially in the relationship realm -- and more and more people are seeking help. WebMD even has an entry about it. And for those of us who aren't serial swipers, our collective societal use of technology in the pursuit of romance seems to be constantly toeing the line of dependence.

If you NEED an app to tell you if your relationship is worth staying in, you’ve answered your own question. We’d probably all be far better off taking apps as seriously as someone’s profile picture, which even in the best case scenario, is a little to the left of reality.

Apps didn’t kill romance, we did

Despite all the incendiary articles about dating apps, millennial hookup culture, and the death of romance, the truth is, there’s a lot more to why younger generations are waiting to get married or aren’t getting married at all. For starters, the very institution of marriage has declined in popularity, and many millennials feel kind of “meh” about getting hitched. And as women advance as career professionals, they no longer need to date to secure their financial futures. Maybe we’re not dumb at dating and romance in the traditional sense -- perhaps some of us just don’t want it.

Instead of looking at apps as drivers or hindrances of human behavior, we should remember that it’s in fact human behavior that determines the success of any type of technology. If we’re swiping ourselves stupid, it’s because it’s fulfilling some kind of need, which could be anything from the need to get laid to the need to kill some time. Twiddling your thumbs is definitely much more efficient and cost-effective than venturing into public to find a date; but all of these apps are just extensions of our romantic reality. Tinder is the hot-spot bar that’s a little too crowded these days, and maybe StayGo is that really insightful friend that doesn’t sugarcoat when it comes to advice. The only way either one can become harmful is we trust them more than we trust ourselves.

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Julia Reiss is a writer and occasional online dater who believes in love at first swipe. Follow her on Twitter: @thereisspiece.