Dating Apps: Search for real love in virtual reality

Think about the moments you fell in love with and imagine them with the dating apps. You can quickly see that much of the falling in love happens in your head. Many factors that create intimacy are actually more conceivable. We cannot fully understand or know anyone, but we can build a shared view of the future with someone we only experience online.

Dating apps and real contact

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However, there were likely tangible and physical components that contributed to the construction of intimacy. You would have seen that person, had a discussion with her, but realistically, a lot of it happened in your head. Love requires imagination, a shared vision and trajectory. In our networked world, this imagination is encouraged from the start. It happens from the moment we pick up our phones, tap an app, and consider whether we should wipe properly. And we swipe a lot: 5 million matches a day on Tinder alone. Dating apps and partner searches have become synonymous.

Dating apps offer users the opportunity to dream, fantasize, construct a person and an imaginary story based on limited information. We install the software with a number of beliefs about who could ensure our perfect match. The tastes are different: sporty, committed, creative, respectful, passionate, educated, age-appropriate or even inappropriate. But think about what you get first: a few profile pictures and a brief description. The information is limited in most cases.

As we imagine our possible match, you are also imagining it. We swipe right and start a chat. Our intrepid interpretation of the other person and the potential intimacy continue. The spirit of an imaginary relationship has started to haunt us.

Fall in love with virtuality

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With dating apps, the user can mobilize memories from a previous relationship, film, novel or idea. The virtual digital space is the perfect place for such fantasies. You might think someone else is on the other side of the app, but we can also consider them a ghost. So it's easy to understand why dating apps are so popular these days. Their mobility makes them easy to use and we have control over the selection of possible matches.

Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, founders of Tinder, say the design takes the strain off finding a partner and the app's playful quality means less emotional investment. However, the idea is also a significant emotional investment. Studies have shown that imaginary events have similar, if not the same, effects as reality. Despite the lack of personal interaction, you may be closely connected to your mind.

Happy couple using tablet in cafe

But will your mind correspond to the real person when you first meet them face to face? Do the two converge, or will there be an unbearable space between them? The next time you browse through potential matches in a dating app, look at how far you go with your digital ideas. You can aim to keep them at bay, or you can deliberately make them spiral – knowing that you might fall for a fantasy.

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