According to a new study by research body YouGov, a staggering number of Australians are now finding love using dating apps but we are a long way off being comfortable talking about it.
So what do we find so embarrassing about online dating and how can an app overcome this barrier for Aussies? As an app developer and entrepreneur, it’s an interesting challenge to tackle and potentially a very lucrative problem to solve, with the industry generating over $2.2 billion annually in the US alone.
The YouGov study found that 35% of Australian adults have used dating apps and sites, with this number increasing to 50% among millennials. Even though young people are using these apps much more than previous generations they are also the least inclined to talk about it. 53% of Millennials said they would be embarrassed to admit their relationship started in an app, while 25% of baby boomers felt the same way.
Interestingly, it also found that we are more ashamed of finding love on some apps than others. eHarmony ranked the highest in terms of respectability with a +50 net respectability score, while Tinder and Bumble rated very poorly at just +6. This discrepancy between platforms begs the question — What is it that makes one dating app more socially acceptable than another when it comes to looking for a partner?
As columnist Clem Bastow points out in Monday’s Age, there still seems to be a sense that online dating in Australia is a “last resort” and not something normal people have to do to find a partner. However, this doesn’t explain why some apps are more socially acceptable than others.
If we start by looking at the mechanics of each of the apps, there are some obvious differences that seem to correlate pretty closely to an app’s respectability score.
The most obvious of these is the swipe mechanism that enables the user to swipe left or right on someone’s photo to like or dislike them. Apps like Tinder and Bumble, which rate the lowest for respectability, are built around this feature. The swipe mechanism has been widely criticised for encouraging users to judge people solely based on their looks.
The fact that Tinder and Bumble are so popular and widely recognised, yet so poorly respected suggests that these apps are somewhat of a guilty pleasure. We’re not ashamed to admit using them for casual dating but when it comes to looking for something more serious, maybe it’s the fear of appearing shallow that keeps us hushed about it.
If we look at the other end of the respectability spectrum, it appears that apps with a strong web presence tend to rate higher than those with a mobile focus. This may suggest that mobile-only dating is seen as a throw-away convenience. A source of quick entertainment, rather than a platform for building long-lasting relationships.
The more highly respected apps also match users based on a lot more than just looks. They delve deeper into personality and common interests to determine compatibility. The most highly respected app, eHarmony, uses their proprietary Compatibility Matching System which, according to their website, matches users based on personality, character and sense of humour.
With such abysmal respectability ratings, how do swipe apps like Tinder and Bumble achieve such wide recognition? While there isn’t any data in YouGov’s report to answer this question, I’m guessing it has a lot to do with shrinking attention spans and the innovative, almost gamified swipe mechanism that provides an instant rush with minimal setup.
- Aussies are ok with casual dating based on looks alone, but not when finding a partner.
- Mobile-only dating apps aren’t taken as seriously as apps with a web presence
- Apps that use more advanced algorithms and criteria to match users are more highly respected.
- Innovation and novelty in dating apps can attract a lot of attention
So, it seems that what Australians want is a dating app that doesn’t base everything on looks, has mobile and web alternatives, uses advanced algorithms to match users and does it in an innovative and novel way. If an app entrepreneur can crack the code and deliver these results, Aussies might finally be able to find love in an app and be comfortable enough to admit it.
By Joe Russell – Founder and Director at DreamWalk App Development, Melbourne.