Why Gen Z Is Ditching Dating Apps

When I first started my dating coaching practice in 2016, it was common for clients to come to me with several active dating profiles and be utterly overwhelmed by app-based dating. Over the last few years I’ve noticed more and more clients, particularly in their 20s, who have never had a dating profile or are not active on any dating apps they used in the past. I don’t exclusively recommend dating apps to my clients, but it has been interesting to see how something that was so common a few years ago is losing steam with certain daters, especially those who are of a younger demographic.

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Gen-Z is the first generation to have internet connectivity from birth. Where other generations have a clear memory of a “before” and “after” smartphones, tech-enabled devices have been seamlessly woven into each and every aspect of Gen-Z’s lives. Given that Gen-Z currently includes 18 to 27 year olds, one would assume they would be prime candidates for the swipe-and-match of dating apps. But that’s not the case. Despite the growing trend of dating apps being where people go to find partners in the U.S., Gen-Z seems to be opting out.

According to a 2023 Statista survey, daters in the U.S. between the ages of 30 and 49, who are mostly millennial, make up 61% of dating app users, whereas Gen-Z comes in at only 26%. This may be in part due to unique challenges Gen-Z faces on the apps. In Hinge’s 2024 D.A.T.E. (Data, Advice, Trends and Expertise) report, many Gen-Z daters cite fear of rejection and being cringe amongst their top concerns. Older generations of daters may have more experience with the discomfort of dating rejection. They may also rebound more easily after an awkward encounter, rather than internalizing it as “cringe” that can’t be overcome. Of course, most of us fear rejection, but in a tech-mediated world where ideas and people are liked, upvoted, attacked or labeled, things can feel simultaneously impersonal and very personal. Gen-Z daters may have a harder time putting themselves in the vulnerable position online of seeking partnership only to get passed over or ghosted. This struggle to make connections using dating apps could explain why some of my Gen-Z clients are deleting their dating apps or, after hearing stories from peers about how hard dating apps are to engage with, choose not to try dating at all.

Read More: How Your ‘Digital Body Language’ Affects Your Dating Life

Generally speaking, dating apps are losing their appeal with daters of all ages. There’s an increasing feeling that the algorithms aren’t helping them find what they want—or that dating app companies are only there to upsell their customers by hiding helpful features and users behind paywalls. The disenchantment grows still when daters, specifically women, minorities, fat people, and people with disabilities have negative experiences like harassment on the apps. It makes sense that most apps get deleted within the first month. Having grown up seeing generations before them struggle with what was the latest and greatest technology for meeting potential partners, Gen-Z is more critical of what apps have to offer. This generation has more of a focus on self care and authenticity in dating than previous generations, and dating apps fall short of the types of genuine, easy connections they’re trying to make.

If Gen-Z is opting out of all of this more than other generations, where are they finding people to date? It’s not too shocking that the majority of college-aged Gen-Z daters are finding partners in person either at school, through coincidental meeting through friends, or just being out in the world. It sounds old fashioned, but dating a friend or someone from their community may actually reduce those feelings of stress and anxiety that Gen-Z face in the dating app environment.

Gen-Z is also using technology to connect in different ways. Social media has become a place for meeting potential partners. Visually-driven apps like Instagram and TikTok allow users to get a sense of who people are (or who they want to be seen as) in ways that dating apps may not. In fact, dating apps often allow you to share your social media information to help prospects learn more about you. Some Gen-Z daters are skipping the dating app middleman and tapping their social media communities for dates. After all, the premise of social media is that you can connect with likeminded people who care about similar things. Social media algorithms also show you accounts of people who like what you like, making an introduction via direct message a little less daunting.

Another interesting dating trend involves sharing detailed information about yourself and what you’re looking for in a personalized Google doc, linked in your social media bio. “Date Me” docs offer more in-depth summaries of what someone is looking for and can include helpful things like past partner reviews and calendar links to add time to meet your prospective partner. These are features that dating apps have toyed with, but similarly to meeting “in the wild” and leveraging social media contacts, “Date Me” docs put the control back in the hands of daters.

While it may seem counterintuitive to think of Gen-Z as the generation that ushers us into a less digital and more personal dating world, signs point to exactly that. It may be that oversaturation in a tech mediated world has driven Gen-Z daters to explore what many of us have forgotten how to do: meet people to date as we go about our lives. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered and even limited our social interactions. But this drive toward something more human is heartening. Perhaps the rest of us should take note.

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