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People are suing dating apps for being predatory, but do they have a point?

People are suing dating apps for being predatory, but do they have a point?

Most dating app users have a few complaints about them and, well, they’re certainly not perfect. From ghosting, to empty profiles, collective burnout and frankly an absurd amount of pictures of men holding fish to swipe through (seriously, it can’t be good for aquatic ecology), we all have our fair share of app critiques.

But, a new lawsuit filed in America posits a different complaint: it alleges that dating apps including Hinge and Tinder are designed to get users addicted and that should make us all very concerned about using them.

The lawsuit was filed in California on Valentine’s Day and argues that the apps are designed to “lock users into a perpetual pay-to-play loop” and encourage “compulsive” usage. This causes users to become “addicts”, who purchase more and more expensive subscriptions to get their fix, the lawsuit alleges.

The action was brought forward by six men, who live in California, Florida, Georgia and New York. One of the plaintiffs called the Match Groups’ business model “predatory”. Match is the parent company of several of the biggest dating apps, including Hinge, Tinder, and OKCupid.

“Match’s business model depends on generating returns through the monopolization of users’ attention, and Match has guaranteed its market success by fomenting dating app addiction that drives expensive subscriptions and perpetual use,” the lawsuit says.

In response, Match said the lawsuit is “ridiculous and has zero merit”. Their statement continued: “Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics. We actively strive to get people on dates every day and off our apps. Anyone who states anything else doesn’t understand the purpose and mission of our entire industry.”

Jonathan Badeen, the co-founder of Tinder who designed the app’s swiping mechanism (spawning a thousand cultural touch points and revolutionising the way we talk about online dating), has previously said it was inspired by a study where pigeons were conditioned to believe food randomly delivered into a tray was caused by their pecking.

Hinge, Tinder and other dating apps are notoriously secretive about how their matching algorithms work, leading to a lot of speculation about the apps. There are theories that the apps will wait until you’ve run out of likes and matches to show you profiles of people it thinks you’ll like the most in order to encourage users to purchase more likes and matches. But, these are unsubstantiated.

The lawsuit argues that Match-owned apps “employ recognized dopamine-manipulating product features”, in order to create a feedback loop where “gamblers [are] locked in a search for psychological rewards that Match makes elusive on purpose.”

While this lawsuit focuses on adult users (you have to be 18 to sign up to Match’s apps), this lawsuit joins a slew of similar cases in which social media companies like Google, Meta (Facebook and Instagram’s parent company) and Snapchat are being held accountable for knowingly encouraging compulsive usage from children.

There’s no denying that social media apps, dating apps and their gamified user experiences do have the potential to feel addictive. And well, when you bring the quest for love into the mix, it’s not all that surprising that some users might feel like they’re being duped.

Then again, dating apps aren’t the only solution for finding love and it’s easy enough to delete them, should you feel like your relationship with them is becoming unhealthy.

The article was first published here

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