Dating, as you all well know, has changed dramatically in the last five years. We've moved from giggling at people mad enough to put their details on Plenty of Fish into an era where it's not at all weird for your mate to pull out her phone, give it a few taps and head off into the sunset to meet the date she just organised right then and there.
Go back further than five years and you'll recall that once upon a time, people even used to meet organically, in real-life situations. Madness*.
So what does the future of dating look like?
Well, with new technology being invented every single day, it's nigh on impossible to map out what the exact landscape will look like. However, there are certain trends emerging which can give us a little bit of insight.
We spoke to Claire Certain, the head of global trends at French dating app Happn, to find out her predictions for the next few years.
*JK kids, obviously this still happens and it's great and there's more on this below.
We’ll get better at fitting our dates into our everyday life
Between friends, work commitments, gym classes and keeping some semblance of an organised home, who the hell has time for dating? It’s a common gripe among millennials. Dating apps are already helping us cut through the chaff when it comes to finding potential dates but are they about to go even further?
Happn’s "See You There" feature is about a year old. At the moment, to me, elements of it are as unnerving as Happn itself was when it first came out (for those not in the know, Happn connects you with people you cross paths with IRL). See You There asks you what you want to do at that very moment (get a drink, go for a run, catch a movie), then matches you with people looking to do the same thing. “If you’re already doing something, why not share your moment with someone who wants to do something at the same time?” asks Claire.
As well as being efficient (you were probably going to go on that run anyway), it's also a good way of finding like-minded matches. “Like if you’re about to go to a movie, that’s something you like to do so if someone else is interested [in joining you on Happn] then you guys have something in common.”
Now, in mid-2017, the concept of Happn doesn't seem weird at all. So how long before everyone feels comfortable mixing their running schedule with their dating? Probably not long at all.
Most people are really looking for "The One"
Despite the bad rep that dating apps get, Claire is certain that most people are after “The One”. “The more I talk to our users, everywhere in the world, you discover that bottom line, they’re looking for the right person.” In fact, she’s noticed that their user numbers are quite low on Friday and Saturday nights, suggesting people prefer to go out with friends over random hookups. It picks up again on Sunday, though. “It’s like, 'OK we had a nice night, we had fun' but then in the morning, they want someone to share the day with.”
Dating apps aren’t going to change our behaviour
Many people blame dating apps for creating "disposable" dating. But Claire said it’s actually the opposite; technology has moved on in conjunction with our wants and needs. “In big cities we’re super-connected so you don’t really look at the people who are going past,” she says. Actually, a lot of us would consider it rude if someone came up to us out of the blue and commented on our appearance. Dating apps create a gentle go-between. “We are mobile and it’s something that we wanted,” she says. “We’re not changing because of the tools, the tools have adapted to our new behaviours. Girls and guys are still doing the same thing we were doing 30 years ago.” It’s just that now, she says, we’re not just doing it by talking to each other in bars.
Dating apps will be instrumental in making connections other than dating
Already the concept of using dating apps for something other than dating is big news. Bumble’s BFF feature means women can meet other like-minded women for friendship, while stories of people using Tinder to travel their way around the world have been circulating for years. “We get testimonials, like 100 a day from all around the world,” says Claire. “The best reward is people saying they want to thank us because they met through the app but we also get testimonials from people saying, ‘I didn’t find love but I did find a business partner, or a friend and now we’re travelling together'. Chemistry is very unique so you don’t know how things are going to turn.”
Meeting IRL will still be a thing
For those that mourn the lost "romance" of people meeting in bars or bumping into each other in the street as if fate had intervened, for starters, trust us – being single before dating apps really wasn’t all that. What's more, it can still happen!
“We’re hyper-connected,” says Claire, explaining the appeal of dating apps. “We shop online for groceries, for clothes, for furniture… I buy furniture on my smartphone on the way home but it doesn’t prevent me from going to a traditional bricks and mortar store to go and buy things as well.” If you’ve got time to spend in store, you’ll do it; if not, you’ll look online. The same applies to dating. If you’re a newly divorced, high-flying corporate, single mother of three, she says, by way of real-life example, then when do you have time to date? The particular woman Claire is referencing did meet a newly divorced, high-flying single father of three on Happn (really) but, Claire says, she was using the app to be “pragmatic” because of her lifestyle. “It doesn’t prevent you from being romantic, or from meeting people in other ways.”
Virtual reality dating could be a thing? Maybe
As depressing as sitting in your bedroom pretending to be on a date with someone else sitting in their bedroom pretending to be on a date sounds, for some dating apps, it could be A Thing. “I know for sure that other companies are considering virtual reality,” Claire says. Although she says Happn isn’t into it. “Dating is about real people and meeting a real person where you can talk to them. We’re not going into virtual reality.” Phew.