The Impacts of Dating Apps on Valentine’s Day Traditions

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Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day arrives. But is it in the actual air or on our screens? Is a day meant to celebrate romantic love and the exchange of chocolates and cards out of date now that millions of Americans are using dating apps?

On Valentine’s Day, smartphones and computers seem to have replaced flowers and candy. The impacts of dating apps on Valentine’s traditions has been completely transformed by technology, which now rules the roost. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you feel about the holiday: if you aren’t a fan of St. Valentine being celebrated for an entire day, the news of the impacts of dating apps upending Cupid’s traditions will blow right past you.

But those who love being showered with attention and adoration on Feb. 14 may be in for a rude awakening if they aren’t aware exactly how big of a bite online dating apps have taken out of their candy-hearted holiday. 

The shift comes down to several factors: too many choices, “gamified dating,” and plain old stress about gift-giving.

Too Many Online Options

The impacts of dating apps haven’t just changed Valentine’s Day traditions; they’ve managed to transform how younger generations date completely. Or not date, according to relationship gurus.

“Less people may actually be celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other,” said Julie Albright, a lecturer with the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and an expert in relationship issues and online dating.

“Younger digital natives are much less likely to be in a relationship now, given the plethora of choices available to them on dating apps and on social media.”

Albright points out that 65% of today’s high school students have never been in a relationship, a phenomenon psychologists refer to as “choice overload” since more options make people less able to make any decision at all.

And if a recent survey is to be believed, not only has the impacts of dating apps changed how we welcome St. Valentine, but more and more people are opting to ignore the holiday altogether.

One Impact of Dating Apps – “Gamified Dating”

It’s possible that the abundance of available options is not the sole factor preventing people from forming long-term relationships. 

While games have always been played in some relationships, online dating has taken the entertainment value of these matches to another level. It’s much easier to mess with someone when you’re behind a screen than in person, which makes it appealing and fun to those who relish in love games.

“Dating, apps and technology have gamified dating,” said Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “It’s a game of connecting and not even really breaking up, but of abandoning people. People are now engaged in practices that would violate social norms in the olden days; there are no consequences since they’re not dating friends of friends or friends of the family.

“There is a new vocabulary to talk about dating and breaking up because of social media: ‘cushioning,’ ‘ghosting,’ and ‘zombieing.’

“Some algorithms allow people to peer into each others’ lives and connect on all these different channels. They’ll use tricks and gimmicks to stop dating but remain connected on social media. They’ll ‘like’ or comment on a post to entice someone or to drive them crazy.”

Valentine’s Day Gift Stress

Those who have successfully navigated the online dating world and found themselves in a relationship have an additional obstacle.

And that is trying to choose a Valentine’s Day gift for their boo or bae. Gift-giving is hard even under the best circumstances but the pressure of picking out the perfect gift for a special someone on Feb. 14 is nervewracking. 

So even if you are an OG recognizer of the holiday and want to celebrate with your significant other, this is a super stressful task! What if they hate it? What if they think it’s too much, or worse, not enough? 

“With a Valentine’s Day gift, there are strong emotional overtones,” said Lars Perner, an expert on consumer behavior and holiday shopping and assistant professor of clinical marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

“For the gift-giver, there may be stressed about what to buy. They want to make sure the message is correct and show an understanding of their Valentine and what he or she is looking for – not just from a utilitarian point of view, but from the point of view of knowing about the other person. A gift may be perceived as more valuable if there has been some thought put into it.”

“For the recipient, there is a tendency to scrutinize what you get to see if there’s a message hidden in the gift. For couples who have been dating for a while, there could be hope or expectation of a marriage proposal. Some may read signs into gifts that may or may not be intended.”

Cupid Customs

Whatever you are doing (or not doing) this Valentine’s Day, it is safe to say that the impacts of dating apps have altered how we celebrate this particular holiday–not to mention how we interact with people on any regular day of the week.

For better or for worse, dating apps have changed the world and will continue to have an impact on culture: we think it’s for the better.

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