www.vice.com /en/article/g5vv5w/why-are-non-single-people-on-dating-apps

What Are Non-Single People Doing on Dating Apps?

Arielle Richards 6-7 minutes

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

Dating apps are a source of endless trust issues. Sometimes, you think you’ve met someone nice, but then suddenly, you’re crippled by doubt – Are they really single, or are they just omitting some of the details?

This common hunch is confirmed by the data – in a 2015 survey of 47,000 dating app users, the research firm GlobalWebIndex found that a whopping 42 percent of participants weren’t single. Among them, 30 percent were married and 12 percent were in a relationship. Other studies put the figure of partnered dating app users between 18 and 25 percent.

Marta, 38, met a man on Tinder and was immediately suspicious. He would only call her from the office and text her on the app, refusing to give her his mobile number. “After a while, I accidentally found out that we had some friends in common,” she said. “He was married with two children.” Luckily, she hadn’t been too emotionally invested in the relationship.

Something similar happened to Francesca, 27. “He only wanted us to text on Telegram, he said he had problems with WhatsApp,” she recounted. After months of going out on dates, Francesca found out he was engaged. “He called me desperately, asking me not to tell anything to his fiancée,” she said. “I eventually contacted her, and she broke up with him.”  

Both of these stories came to me via my Instagram community, Match and the City, which focuses on modern dating and dating apps. In these and countless other stories, the gist is more or less the same – People who are already in a relationship use the apps to talk with other people, making up excuses of various kinds to themselves and to their partners. 

One of the recurring patterns that jumped out to me when reading these stories was that many people first log into the apps after their relationship becomes long distance.

Luca, 35, downloaded Bumble after moving abroad from work, even though he still has a girlfriend back in Italy. “We rarely see each other, only when I come home,” he said. “Sex has become an issue that’s starting to take a toll. If she were to find out, I don't know how she would react, but I’m using the app very discreetly.”

Another reason many people brought up is that they desire sleeping with other people but can’t muster the courage to discuss it with their partners.

For instance, a user writing via Not Gonna Lie (NGL), a platform supported by Instagram that allows for anonymous contributions, said they decided to use dating apps for occasional hookups when their girlfriend was out of town. “I wanted to experience the thrills I hadn't felt in a very long time,” they said. “I loved her but I absolutely wanted to do it with someone else. Karma had a laugh with me though – I got caught by one of her friends.”

The truth is, being in a conventional relationship just doesn't work for everyone. “I am satisfied with my partner’s love, but my sexuality is frustrated by having sex with only them,” another anonymous user said. “I don't believe in monogamy, I think it is just an obligation dictated by our culture and society.”

Desiring new sexual partners is totally common and understandable. The problem is, keeping it from your partner won’t get you very far. Honesty and communication are key. Anything short of that is a short-fire recipe to hurt your partner. We have a lot to learn from people in open relationships and ethical non-monogamy.

“We at Tinder have always encouraged our members to complete their profile and try to be as transparent and authentic as possible,” said Vicente Balbastre, Communications Lead for Southern Europe. “The explore feature in particular encourages us to show who we really are, without filters, so we can meet people who actually share the same interests.” Tinder calls this “hardballing”, meaning being upfront in your bio about what exactly you’re looking for. 

A 2018 study looked into why partnered people use Tinder. The main reasons they found were that they were using it either to look for hookups, or to see what was out there on the dating market and estimate their own value as a dating partner. On top of that, non-single users tended to have a more laissez-faire approach and were more likely to let other users approach them first. About half of non-singles surveyed said they had actually met up in person with someone from the app, while the other half didn’t feel the need to act on the curiosity.

The study ends with a question – would people who cheat on Tinder have cheated anyway, or does the way in which the app is designed increase the potential for infidelity? Although that wasn’t the scope of the study, the researchers concluded that dating apps are likely to aid cheaters. 

In fact, the most addictive components of the dating app – including, for its swiping feature and heavy reliance on photos – encourage some users to log in for entertainment. This, combined with the fact that the apps make it easier to have immediate meet-ups with potential partners and show how virtually limitless the dating pool is, make it harder for someone to settle for a single partner.

Since technology and human behaviour are now so interconnected, it is almost pointless to ask whether a partner would cheat in a world without dating apps. People have always had a hard time being monogamous and always will, no matter what fairy tale version of true love society pushes on us.


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