Love or Dopamine: A Bumble Love Story

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“Hopefully marriage, like he’s honestly amazing… we both feel very lucky.” she gushes excitedly. Her joy and conviction is palpable as she relays the all-too-familiar story of love’s happenstance as I on the other end of the line, listen with rapt interest. Could this happy, positively-delighted person be talking about dating apps? The same phenomenon that is responsible for the insurgence of more than half of the Millennial Woes? It was very intriguing, to say the least, to find someone, out of the countless surveys we sent out, who had an exceptional story from using dating apps. And so it turned out that this story, Tiwa’s story, was one I had to tell.

Dating Apps have been around for a while since Match.com in ‘95. About 11 years ago, however, they were refurbished for the new age, ushering in a new era in the history of relationships. Smartphones gave people access to love and casual sex at the flick of a thumb, and the intricacies of courtship and social awkwardness translated to secret thrills and dating app addiction. In tow was the alarming rise in rape cases, deaths, extortion, sexual harassment, and cyber trolling. There are new categories popping up every day in social relations- the LGBTQ+ community is ever-evolving while “non-monogamous” has been established as a new dating profile so we can stop looking down on serial cheaters. All in all, regardless of your intentions, online dating is not for the faint-hearted.

It was hardly surprising that a good number of the respondents to our recent survey on the use of dating apps by millennials informed us that they had not attempted to use dating apps. In Nigeria, Tinder has become more popular for its utility as an avenue to link sex workers to potential clients. The saturation in the use of dating apps has also informed new trends. Dating App Fatigue and Dating Apocalypse are just some of the terms used to describe the prevalent issues stemming from our increased exposure to dating apps. The science behind it argues that increased exposure to such a wide range of options can be both time-consuming and mentally exhausting leading to indecisiveness and a form of emotional jetlag. Conversely, it argues that making a match releases dopamine to the brain causing pleasure and satisfaction. This theory explains the “swipe-craze” and the logic behind the endless search for an actual match. We are all seeking pleasure and satisfaction.

Tinder and Bumble are unarguably the most popular dating apps in the world, having registered their presence in over 150 countries. Interestingly, Whitney Wolfe Herd who co-founded Tinder developed the idea for Bumble in the wake of her departure from the company in a bid to address Tinder’s main flaw and turn the tables by putting women in control of their romantic experiences. Comparatively, Tinder has been reviewed frequently to have bad user flexibility. With the current stats, Bumble seems to be winning the war with a surprisingly high turnover and an exceptional success rate

Bumble’s success is very symbolic to the womenfolk and has helped to change the tides in what was a male-dominant terrain. Women have found the freedom to choose partners on their own terms and the rewards of this new-found liberation are visible for all to see. Tiwa is a Nigerian lawyer based in London. And with the help of Bumble has found love online, in the most berated place in the history of romance. When asked, she says she’s had a few frogs and agrees that dating can be quite exhausting but “people still want to connect, people are still looking for love”, opposing the arguments against dating apps. Point is, we are all seeking connections; love, friendships, and hookups. Dating apps enable that connection if you are set on what you want and can manage to wade through the BS. Call it love, dopamine or kismet, dating apps are honest. What you seek, is what you get. For the most part. 

The bad rap that online dating gets is a tension that has cast its net wide and is entrapping many who haven’t even bothered to try. They instead prefer to “meet people the old-fashioned way”. Which is what exactly? Seeing with your eyes what your heart cannot see? Highlighting the good looks and appearance over the intentions and the heart, putting the physical above the ephemeral? Tiwa put it succinctly when she said” I’m personally a bit biased because I think a spiritual and mental connection is more important than a physical one, and not meeting in real life first meant that the other connections were kinda stabilized first”.

Dating apps have experienced a rise in popularity due to the pandemic. People are forming deeper, more wholesome connections from connecting first and the results may be the reorientation we now so earnestly need in approaching online dating. Popular Netflix reality show, “Love Is Blind” was a social experiment to find out if love is truly blind and though the arguments for that are slightly misconstrued because the only successful couples made attractive matches. Haters would say it makes for good content but I think, they may have just been lucky. What if love is Pandora’s box? Follow a trail and trust your heart?

The spiritual connection already endears the other to you, making it almost insignificant what they look like. You already won the jackpot because you know who they are, which is more than what most can say for people they are constantly in proximity with. It just may turn out, like for Lauren and Cameron, like for Amber and Barnett and now, like for Tiwa, that the other is also physically attractive, which is the icing on the cake. It is our uncertainty, no, our vanities that fail us. That makes us presume we may be hurt or scammed, or that the crush may be unattractive. It is also how bad you want it that proves how good you get it.

Tiwa’s story is in many ways an eye-opener and a joy to recount; online dating doesn’t always have to be thirst traps and love is the gift that keeps on giving.

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