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'Swiped,' A New Documentary, Reveals New Ugly Truths About What Dating Apps Do To Our Love Lives

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A new documentary, Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age, is getting real about how online dating culture is affecting our real-life romances.

In a world where people can quickly scroll through dozens of Tinder profiles with just a flick of their thumbs, writer-director Nancy Jo Sales (of the famous Alexis Neiers, Bling Ring phone call) says she hopes her film will “bring to life and humanize the people in these stacks of pictures.”

According to CNN, research scientist Justin Garcia says that adults age 18-30 spend about 10 hours each week on dating apps, so it’s no wonder people sometimes feel like they’re drowning in options. One of the film’s interviewees discussed Tinder with a kind of detached nonchalance that can only be borne out of constant exposure. “Just in like economic terms, if you have a surplus of options, then the value goes down … one way or another, I’m just swiping, and then there’s somebody else immediately,” he said.

This practical view of potential partners as “surplus” in an economy may even contribute to a startling issue that Sales learned about through her interviews —a connection between dating apps and sexual violence.

Britain’s National Crime Agency found in 2014 that 184 people reported being raped by someone they’d met through online dating, up from 33 in 2009. Rape is underreported in and of itself, and some people may be even more hesitant to come forward if they met their attacker through online dating, so it’s likely that the real number is even higher than 184.

“Swiped” also tackles the issue of racism in online dating, as some interviewees cited seeing profiles that explicitly rejected black users.

In an interview with NPR, Sales says she believes that “dating apps normalize things that are unacceptable,” since users are more or less free to pick and choose which qualities they want in a match. This can make for a turbulent and unstable dating life, and the ramifications of online dating probably haven’t reached their tipping points yet.

Maybe “Swiped” will help pull back the curtain and give young people a reason to uninstall Tinder for the first –or fifth, no judgment here— time. Catch the film on HBO and decide for yourself.


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