Is our modern love affair with dating apps fizzling out?
Smartphones have transformed the way we date. But as the digital world evolves, is our attitude to dating apps changing? We surveyed the UK to discover what online dating looks like today.
In 2021, we looked at dating apps and how people use them. Fresh out of the pandemic, the answers might have been expected – people were on their mobile phones, single and ready to mingle. Now one year on, we ran our research again and the results seem to have shifted. While (mostly) the same dating apps are ruling our worlds, fewer people are reporting success stories. And when it comes to the overall sentiment about using them, it seems like fatigue has set in.
The modern love affair with dating apps might have lost some of its spark, but is it more of a change in outlook than the end of our relationship with online dating?
Less success, or less engagement?
Dating app performance 2023
|Platform||2021 Rank||2022 Rank||Ranking change||Success rate (%) 2021||Success rate (%) 2022||Difference|
|Plenty of Fish||2||2||0||12.7||11.18||-1.52|
Across almost every dating platform, this year we saw fewer people reporting success stories. And with the industry still booming (revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate of 2.09%) and attracting plenty of new subscribers, this might point to people changing the way they chase love online.
In 2022, nearly a year on from all Covid restrictions being scrapped by the government, people haven’t been throwing themselves back into the dating world with the gusto one might expect.
A shift in lifestyle
Hybrid working is the new norm, with 78% of people reporting the main benefit being a better work/life balance. Looked at alongside regional data suggesting people go out less since the pandemic, people may be opting to stay home over venturing out on dates. This could mean people are being more selective.
Science-based app, Hinge, was one of the few platforms that had a higher success rate reported than in 2021; not only beating its previous score, but moving up 4 ranks to become the sixth most successful dating app on our list. As an app that requires active involvement from its users – even hiding matches who you haven’t messaged in a set amount of time – its success hints that there’s been a drop in casual dating, with platforms that require more active involvement doing better.
We see a similar story with Bumble, an app that famously requires women to message first. The distinction might not seem important until you look at some of the statistics around what men and women who online date are looking for. Compared to women, men were nearly three times as likely to use apps to ‘keep their options open’ and four times as likely to go online looking for casual hook ups.
But when we look more closely into men’s reported interactions with dating apps, they seem to be in the worst of both worlds – with more men confessing to ‘bad’ behaviour and admitting to experiencing it more often than women.
Bad dating manners: men vs women
Dating apps haven’t always had the best reputation, and for every anecdotal fairy-tale, there’s a horror story in response. So, we asked people about their experiences of the most common bad behaviours online, and for one segment of society, things looked particularly dicey.
Digital deception in 2023
|I've done this||10.25%||3.24%||10.25% 3.24%||7.01%|
|I've had this done to me||22.30%||16.96%||22.30% 16.96%||5.34%|
|I have both done this and had this done to me||7.01%||3.99%||7.01% 3.99%||3.02%|
|I think I've had this done to me, but I am not sure||18.17%||13.22%||18.17% 13.22%||4.95%|
|I have neither done this nor had this done to me||42.63%||62.84%||42.63% 62.84%||-20.21%|
|I've done this||14.39%||7.48%||14.39% 7.48%||6.91%|
|I've had this done to me||24.10%||23.44%||24.10% 23.44%||0.66%|
|I have both done this and had this done to me||6.29%||3.74%||6.29% 3.74%||2.55%|
|I think I've had this done to me, but I am not sure||19.42%||11.47%||19.42% 11.47%||7.95%|
|I have neither done this nor had this done to me||37.06%||54.11%||37.06% 54.11%||-17.06%|
|I've done this||13.49%||9.73%||13.49% 9.73%||3.76%|
|I've had this done to me||21.94%||16.96%||21.94% 16.96%||4.98%|
|I have both done this and had this done to me||7.19%||6.73%||7.19% 6.73%||0.46%|
|I think I've had this done to me, but I am not sure||20.68%||12.72%||20.68% 12.72%||7.96%|
|I have neither done this nor had this done to me||37.23%||54.36%||37.23% 54.36%||-17.13%|
|I've done this||17.45%||19.20%||17.45% 19.20%||-1.75%|
|I've had this done to me||25.72%||26.43%||25.72% 26.43%||-0.71%|
|I have both done this and had this done to me||7.55%||10.72%||7.55% 10.72%||-3.17%|
|I think I've had this done to me, but I am not sure||18.88%||13.22%||18.88% 13.22%||8.90%|
|I have neither done this nor had this done to me||30.94%||34.66%||30.94% 34.66%||-3.72%|
With the exception of ghosting (which men report experiencing and engaging in less), it seems like men are coming off worse when it comes to the darker sides of online dating.
17% fewer women reported having either been the perpetrators or victims of cushioning or posing, and 20% fewer reported either having been catfished, or catfishing. With deception of one kind or another being such a common experience, it’s perhaps no wonder that male sentiment towards dating apps is so low.
Dating app sentiment by gender
|I would never recommend people use dating apps (Agree)||37.95%||26.93%||37.95% 26.93%||11.02%|
|I wish I'd never used dating apps (Agree)||37.95%||27.43%||37.95% 27.43%||10.52%|
|My love/sex life is more dysfunctional now because I used dating apps (Agree)||37.59%||18.45%||37.59% 18.45%||19.14%|
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The picture our research paints is that while nearly 1 in 10 of men say they use dating apps to search for love (8%) and to combat loneliness (8%) they’re encountering quite a few challenges along the way. Could it be because of the nature of the platforms marketed towards them? In 2019, it was reported that the UK gender ratio on Tinder was 9:1 in favour of men. And while it’s clear that women face a disproportionate level of abuse online, perhaps men aren’t being offered the same level of communication and education on how to stay safe.
Looking for love in all the right places
Alongside Bumble and Hinge, the other platform to see improvements in 2022 was Lumen, a dating app for over the 50s. Some might struggle to imagine the more mature generations whipping out their flip phone and securing a match, but it stands to reason that baby boomers would benefit from a dedicated dating platform. What might come as a surprise is that it’s among the older age groups that we see the least negative feelings about online dating play out.
Dating app sentiment by age
|I would never recommend people use dating apps (Agree)||36.4%||30.3%|
|I wish I'd never used dating apps (Agree)||40.025%||28.4%|
|My love/sex life is more dysfunctional now because I used dating apps (Agree)||38.4%||22.3%|
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Dating apps which are targeted towards a specific demographic – whether that be age (Lumen and Snack) or dating intent (like Bumble and Hinge) - are the real winners of 2022. Perhaps, in the wake of the changes brought to our lifestyles by the pandemic, dating for the sake of it is no longer so appealing. And while the old guard of online dating still attracts plenty of users (Tinder, Match.com and PlentyofFish) it would appear your best chances of success are through more niche apps and less saturated dating markets.
Is #SelfLove the new #RelationshipGoals?
Finding yourself in a happy relationship (preferably with a partner who’s photogenic enough to be bragged about on your social media) was once the digital world’s most treasured life goal. But now, scrolling your Instagram feed on your Apple or Android phone and you’re just as likely to see images of blissed out singles, enjoying solo life.
And maybe that’s why we’re seeing a shift in the world of dating apps. Gone are the days of casting a wide net. In 2023 the apps which focus on the person first and partner second are doing the best.
This survey was conducted with a sample size of 2000 people across the UK with Censuswide.
We compared this 2022 data against previous survey data collected from Censuswide in 2021 to find out if the sentiment towards dating apps has changed. Read the original Modern Love campaign for more insights on our favourite dating apps.