Are dating apps in the Digital Age exposing, rather than causing, infidelity?
In the romantic ideology of the Western world, love is unconditional and forever.
It denotes self-sacrifice for the sake of another’s well-being, and is presented as both tragic and triumphant in scope.
Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Titanic’s Rose and Jack, and The Notebook’s Allie and Noah. These are representative samples of a fictional demographic that immortalises the bitter-sweet sanctions of romantic love.
Comedy, arguably the opposite art form of tragedy, treats the concept of love similarly.
While calamitous events in rom-coms generally inconvenience the lives of its protagonists, these interferences serve to prove that love ultimately will conquer all.
50 First Dates treats this popular trope in one of its more exhausting forms, where a man must make his amnesiac girlfriend fall in love with him again every day.
Even the post-apocalyptic zombie setting of Warm Bodies perpetuates the premise of persevering love. The male protagonist is cured of being un-dead through the flirtatious ministrations of the female lead.
Being in love literally brought him back to life.
Then it’s no stretch of the imagination that most narratives in popular entertainment are Eros-centric.
Yet the thematic prevalence of love throughout human storytelling might indicate dissonance between the desire for monogamy, and the urge for polyamorous exploits.
According to Quartz magazine, the prevalence of monogamy in humans is only just above the 3-5% found in other animals.
For a species that has spoken, sung, and written about love throughout the millennia, that’s a pretty low percentage.
Perhaps the explanation lies in our programming.
Feelings of love and infatuation create neurological behaviour reminiscent of the influences of cocaine; neurons release the feel-good hormone dopamine, which in turn has been connected to addiction.
Humans like the pleasure associated with being in love. When that experience runs out, we need a romantic re-up.
As such, research in the UK cites that the average relationship lasts for under three years. Experts in the United States claim that between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce.
The undeniable swing to polygamy in the Western world could signal humankind’s inability for monogamy. Add the growth of social media in the Digital Age, and the opportunity to ‘hit-it-and-quit-it’ increases.
Websites such as Match.com and OkCupid are extensions of the singles ads that used to populate the back end of newspapers. Until recently, they were primarily accessed through a desktop device.
However, technological pundits predict that laptops and PCs will soon be replaced by the advancing scalability of Smartphones for Internet access.
In light of this growth, many companies are forced to adapt their online services to mobile devices in order to compete with other vendors, such as similar apps. For platforms like Match.com and OkayCupid, rivals such as Tinder and Bumble come to mind.
The Digital Age means that access to the Internet is just a jacket pocket away. With advancing privacy options (incognito browsing and phones that unlock via fingerprint recognition), the existence of humankind’s polyamorous urges are coming to light.
A global poll revealed that around 30% of Tinder users are married, and another 12% are in a relationship.
Although Tinder is by no means a comprehensive reflection of humanity, the numbers indicate a tendency towards infidelity.
While various sources claim that apps and the Internet are leading to higher rates of extra-relationship affairs, an alternative explanation is that these platforms reveal behavioural patterns that have existed throughout the millennia.
Rather than argue that digital platforms determine how people act, perhaps we should consider how certain apps, modern renditions of storytelling, are a reflection of the human condition.