It’s been two years since you’ve seen him on VH1, doling out Tough Love
relationship advice, but despite taking a step back from the small-screen spotlight, matchmaker Steve Ward has been busier than ever and recently launched his own dating app, Love Lab
Ward told us, “It had a lot to do with my experience on Tinder." Yes, he's on Tinder. More on that later.
The ubiquitous mobile dating app has been a topic of conversation more than ever lately thanks to the Vanity Fair story
speculating that it’s causing an imminent dating apocalypse. The article explores whether Tinder is creating a society full of sexually disgruntled young women and emotionally vacant, promiscuous young men. Adding insult to injury are a few independent analyses of the dating app’s demographics—Wired estimates that 42 percent of Tinder users are already in relationships and/or married
Technically, happily engaged Ward is one of them—he has been on Tinder for years—but for him, it’s work: He’s researching, gathering data, and messaging people directly about their digital dating experiences. So, what does he think about the app and all of the “dating apocalypse” talk? Let him tell you.
“What’s happening is that there’s become a huge polarization—between those who want to be single and those who want to be in relationships. Apps like Tinder? They’re a marketplace for short-term mating—but you see people who are looking for long-term potential shopping in a short-term marketplace.”
Ward sent me this Wall Street Journal article
to illustrate the point. There are plenty of young adults out there who are dead set on commitment, relationships, and family-building of their own—and as for the “dating apocalypse” Vanity Fair contributor Nancy Jo Sales highlights in her well-reported feature? It also exists—but modern relationships aren’t as monolithic as the story makes them out to be.
“[The dating apocalypse] isn’t due to Tinder,” Ward says. “This is what I call the Google effect. It’s amazing what has changed in the last 10 years—from Apple to Google, and throw in all the social networks. Dating was never mobile until seven years ago—the iPhone happened in ’07, the first Android phone was in ’08. We are at a point in time that’s so microcosmic and so profound—the tech shift has infused every aspect of our lives and every single tier of Maslow’s hierarchy
—even something as simple as sex. Even our sociological views are changing—Amnesty International just put out a statement
for sex work to be decriminalized globally. What is our new social viewpoint on morality? And in 2015 is there anything wrong with hookup culture?”
For her Vanity Fair piece, Sales has been accused of confirmation bias—taking anecdotes over data for fact. An article on The Cut explains it this way
If you hang out with stats geeks for long enough, one of them will probably utter the sentence, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” This is a well-worn nerdism, but it reveals an important truth: When we consider our experiences and those of our friends and family, we’re only getting a tiny chunk of the full story of humanity. In that town over there, or in that state on the other side of the country, things might be very, very different, and it would be a mistake to extrapolate from our little slice of the world. This is worth keeping in mind whenever a new moral panic is afoot.
Fair enough—but that doesn't mean that what Sales reports isn't happening in a significant (rather than a sensationalist) way. "Research shows that people who text are likely to get into bed faster," Ward says. "The reality is that there is longitudinal data to support Sales' anecdotal references."
The real issue is that "technology has created a form of digital intimacy," Ward says. "And digital intimacy is synthetic—it's not real intimacy. There is an equilibrium that occurs when emotional and physical intimacy cross. And women, by nature, are more programmed to find a suitor, to look for a suitable mate and partner with them—that's been bred into us for the past 15,000 years, and that's actually not phasing out because of the ephemerality of relationships and the rise of the short-term mating strategy. It's the way people go into everything they do these days—they think that what they get themselves into, they can get themselves out of. People find separating and rebooting much more practical than ever before."
It's a lot to consider—the polarization of attitudes towards relationships and commitment, the proliferation of dating apps and platforms, the changing ways that singles (and marrieds) approach everything they to choose to do. So what's a woman looking for love online to do in light of all this? Ward shares his three best strategies for mobile dating success:
1. Be direct.
"If you want them to ask you out—ask them when they plan on asking you out," Ward says. "Here's the thing: women complain about getting matched with guys who don't say anything. Ask them why they're not saying anything. Don't wander around puzzled and completely bewildered—ask good questions."
2. Clear conflicts and maintain your standards.
"If there are deal-breakers, get them out of the way," Ward says. "Don't waste your time with someone who's obviously not mission-oriented—for example, if your mission is to end up in a meaningful relationship, if a guy starts talking about sex before you've even met in person, cut him off."
3. Post full-length photos.
"Men assume that if you're not showing it, you're hiding it," Ward says. Men are visual creatures, and when it comes to websites and apps, they “just want to make sure they're not going to be surprised at who shows up on a date." Give a real, accurate impression of who you are, including how you look, and you’ll likely have more success.
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