But other users complain of rudeness even in early text interactions on the app. Some of that nastiness could be chalked up to dating apps’ dependence on remote, digital communication; the classic “unsolicited dick pic sent to an unsuspecting match” scenario, for example. Or the equally familiar tirade of insults from a match who’s been rebuffed, as Anna Xiques, a 33-year-old advertising copywriter based in Miami, experienced. In an essay on Medium in 2016 (cleverly titled “To the One That Got Away on Bumble”), she chronicled the time she frankly told a Bumble match she’d been chatting with that she wasn’t feeling it, only to be promptly called a cunt and told she “wasn’t even pretty.” (Bumble, launched in 2014 with the former Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe Herd at its helm, markets itself as a more women-friendly dating app because of its unique feature designed to curb unwanted messages: In heterosexual matches, the woman has to initiate chatting.)
Sometimes this is just how things go on dating apps, Xiques says. She’s been using them off and on for the past few years for dates and hookups, even though she estimates that the messages she receives have about a 50-50 ratio of mean or gross to not mean or gross. She’s only experienced this kind of creepy or hurtful behavior when she’s dating through apps, not when dating people she’s met in real-life social settings. “Because, obviously, they’re hiding behind the technology, right? You don’t have to actually face the person,” she says.
Perhaps the quotidian cruelty of app dating exists because it’s relatively impersonal compared with setting up dates in real life. “More and more people relate to this as a volume operation,” says Lundquist, the couples therapist. Time and resources are limited, while matches, at least in theory, are not. Lundquist mentions what he calls the “classic” scenario in which someone is on a Tinder date, then goes to the bathroom and talks to three other people on Tinder. “So there’s a willingness to move on more quickly,” he says, “but not necessarily a commensurate increase in skill at kindness.”