If you've used dating apps this statement won't come as a surprise to you. Being treated badly on these apps has become the norm.
Many of us justify this as "to be expected", given the marketplace vibe of these apps. "You don't like me. Who cares? There are 20 other people just like you in my inbox."
The federal government's announcement to clean up dating apps has come as a welcome relief to singletons.
The Albanese government has given dating apps until June 2024 to develop and implement a voluntary code of practice to make these platforms a safer experience for us. They warn companies they will step in and force them to act if they fail to meet this deadline.
Dating apps are now the most common method single Australians use to meet each other according to research from Monash University, funded by dating giant eHarmony.
In Australian, 43 per cent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 25 per cent of 35-to-44-year-olds use dating apps in Australia. Over-45s are the newest user group and growing rapidly. According to YouGov's findings on Australia's dating services, eHarmony is the most popular app among local singles, followed by Tinder.
While "textual chemistry" can be a huge benefit of these platforms for connection, "textual toxicity" has become commonplace.
In my research and work with adults, it has become clear to me that offensive language, disrespectful name-calling, ghosting and having others offload their frustrations on you, have all become common place on dating apps, regardless of what platform you use, or how old you are.
The problem is that this has made toxic behaviour more commonplace, with many users coming to expect and even accept such treatment as par of the course when looking for love online.
We tell ourselves, "Don't worry, it's just Tinder, it doesn't matter". It matters.
We lull ourselves into a false sense of security by thinking that the "online" aspect of toxic behaviour acts like a shield, protecting us from the damage and stress it could cause. It doesn't.
What happens online impacts all aspects of our life. Our online and offline lives are no longer separate. The more it happens, the more it eats away. It's like rust on metal. Another put down, another insult, another offload by an angry single online affecting our stress, our self-esteem, sense of worth, happiness and trust in the world and others.
The government's intervention is welcome, however it has limitations. Adding safety warnings for users, sending notifications to vulnerable groups such as those older than 45 who are often victims of romance scams, undertaking background checks on users, and using photo verification are all important measures that will keep us safer. But they don't however resolve the bigger issue. That is, not only have we come to expect being treated badly on dating apps, we've come to expect bad behaviour online in general.
Online toxicity has become the norm. Online complaints, anger and harassment are a fact of life now - or worse, that dishing it out is an integral part of enjoying a video game, engaging with the news online, or in a group chat. It's become commonplace to view high profile influencers on social media sharing extreme and hateful views, and it's become commonplace to see everyday people dish out the negatively and hate on Tinder, Instagram, gaming, messenger or any other online space.
Online dating doesn't only happen on dating apps, it occurs across all social apps. The issue is that if behaving badly online is something we have become used to, then changes can't be brought to dating apps until this changes.
Respectful relationships start from the first words of communication and what we accept as acceptable behaviour towards us online.
If our children are growing up expecting that bad behaviour online is "normal", what will dating be like for them?
Changing the safety conducts for dating apps is a step forward however realistically it is only one wheel in the spoke in our never-ending wheel of online toxicity.
We can wait for the apps to make us safer but more importantly it needs to come from us and not accepting bad treatment. Whether it's on a dating app or any other line of online or offline communication.
We do it for ourselves and we do it as powerful role models for our children.
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