Social media and online media apps have drastically changed the way we interact with others, not only in a social setting but on a deeper level when looking for romance. According to the dating site eharmony, 40% of Americans use online dating. This percentage reflects just how all these applications and websites are redefining the social norm.
Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author, Nancy Jo Sales, author of 2013’s The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World, and 2016’s American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers has been one of few writers heavily invested in researching this new era of online dating. In 2015, Sales wrote “Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse,” for Vanity Fair. Now, Sales has an HBO documentary premiering on Monday, Sept. 10, 10 p.m. ET/PT, called Swiped: Hooking Up In The Digital Age.
“I’m hoping that a lot of young people, especially young women take away from this [documentary],” Sales recently told BoldLatina during a chat. “It represents the voices of a lot of people.” Sales recognizes how the media has become a sort of “champs for online dating” when reporting about the social context of these platforms, often ignoring the common danger. “The media reports are often so different than from what I heard from so many people,” some examples Sales said, “the harassment, the dick pics, and the dysfunction of these apps.”
For the documentary, Sales followed six young people, ranging in ages from 18 to 29 years old, all across different cities in the United States. Their stories, all with common themes heard in conversations among friends who use these apps.
Since 2015 when Sales originally wrote the story for Vanity Fair, some things have changed — these dating apps have now become a norm, and are not seen as an unconventional way to meet people as it was viewed when the apps first hit the market. “The apps became normalized, rather than having this critical discussion about this technology and how it’s changing dating,” Sales said, “a piece like mine [the story on Vanity Fair] was considered controversial rather than let’s listen to the voices of these young women.”
When the Vanity Fair story was published, Tinder lashed against Sales on a Twitter rant of epic proportions. In turn, Sales responded with an open letter to Sean Rad, Tinder’s founder, and former CEO.
“Tinder and other dating apps are very good at controlling the conversation,” Sales said. “Since my article, there hasn’t been a real national conversation about what these apps are doing, the apps are normalized.”
Sales wants to make it clear that we need to have conversations around the topic of online dating, not to bash men, but rather to talk about how this technology is changing the way people view dating and romance. “This technology elicits behavior in both men and women because technology controls our behavior.” Sales said. For those who use online dating, the behavior Sales talks about is nothing new, it’s the “hookup culture” era. A time when sending and receiving “sexts,” dick pics, and explicit messages are common.
Sales sees the need to talk about the harassment that some users have experienced, especially in this #MeToo moment when we are talking about sexual harassment, but not discussing enough how dating apps potentially influence this behavior. “Most women are experiencing harassment right now in some online platform,” Sales said.
The documentary also features interviews not just with founders of some of these online dating apps, but also experts and academics who provide their expertise and understanding on the subject, and the historical context of how dating has evolved since the rise of social media and dating apps.
While some people prefer one app over another, the truth is, the majority of these online dating apps are owned by the same parent company, Match Group — Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and OKCupid are some of the platforms under the same parent company, a global monopoly of online dating. In June of this year, Match Group also acquired, Hinge, the platform that dubbed itself as the “anti-Tinder app.” During this year’s F8 developer conference keynote, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media giant is also developing its own online dating version to rival with the already saturated market.
“It’s hard to stop swiping,” Sales said.
Swiped: Hooking Up In The Digital Age premieres on Monday, Sept. 10, 10 p.m. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.