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I’m back on the dating scene – but I don’t know how long I can afford to be

Mobile phone with hearts and pound sign to illustrate the high cost of some dating apps
Mobile phone with hearts and pound sign to illustrate the high cost of some dating apps

The best way to meet someone is in real life. You can suss the situation out and the attraction is based on more than a ten-year-old photo.

But it’s also really bloody difficult to meet someone this way – especially as you get older.

Your friends start to settle down and so they have more couple friends and know fewer eligible bachelors to set you up with. Then there’s the fact that you don’t really go out in the same way you used to, so you’re less likely to start talking to some bloke in a bar.

On the occasion that you do go out for dinner with friends, it’s hardly the right vibe to go off hunting for single men. What’s left? The gym or the office – neither of which are appropriate places to try and land yourself a date.

So, reluctantly, you download apps.

I do not blame dating apps for the death of romance – after all, weirdos, liars and cheats have always existed. But they do provide an amplified platform for these people, an online playground in which to push boundaries and feast on the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of romantic options available to them.

For any sane, decent human who is simply seeking an authentic connection, then, the whole process can be disheartening to say the least. You are told by these apps that you are “most compatible” with someone with the intense gaze of a serial killer and whose life goals do not match yours in any way, shape or form.

You get bombarded with “likes” from men with oiled-up torsos and apparently no heads. And then, when you do actually start talking to people you’ve matched with, they ghost you after a day or so. (Of course I am only talking about what I have experienced as a heterosexual woman).

What’s even worse is that these dating apps now have the audacity to charge you hefty amounts for the privilege. Not only do you have to pay for the date itself – which, according to a survey by credit card company Aqua costs on average £31.29 per person – you also face monthly charges, which can be surprisingly high for premium subscription packages.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “why would you pay?”, because the very same thought occurred to me – especially as you can technically use Hinge, Bumble, Tinder and the like for free. But once you start using these apps, it’s easy to see why people part with their hard-earned cash.

They hook you in with a few decent options. You start using up your daily allowance of “likes”, only to run out as soon as you land on a profile of someone who is clearly your soulmate. And don’t think that by tomorrow he’ll still be there. Oh, no. The app senses your engagement with this person then yanks them away from you so that your only option is to carry on swiping, in the hope you’ll one day stumble upon their profile again, with a fresh batch of likes in tow. Unless, of course, you pay for more.

Popular app Hinge even tells users that they’re twice as likely to get a date if they send a rose (a sort of “super like”) at a minimum cost of £1.39 – and of course the options showcased are absolutely Adonis-like to entice you.

Just the other day, I was discussing a long-talked-about theory that’s been going around on social media with my friend Eleanor, known as “rose jail” – a perceived gated community of hotties. The theory is that if the app is only serving you good options when you have to pay for them, chances are you are stuck in “rose jail” as well. So, instead of spiralling about the apparent lack of decent engagement and the possible reasons you’re struggling on apps, take comfort from the fact that it could just be some sinister algorithm at play and that you’re locked behind some paywall.

I decided to test it out for research purposes, and subscribed to Hinge Plus at a price of £14.99 for the week. Naturally, my usage went up as I wanted to explore what options this subscription gave me (and get my money’s worth). I was initially presented with like-minded people, before the options slowly thinned out.

Even when I adjusted the preference settings, things didn’t get any better. The one silver lining was being able to weed out the smokers and guys not looking to have children.

Psychology expert and life coach Bayu Prihandito believes that by paying for premium features you “demonstrate a certain level of seriousness and commitment to the whole dating process.”

“The essence of a successful match is based more on compatibility and the mutual effort that both of you are willing to put in, and your mindset to dating,” he says.

But people are already disillusioned with modern dating, and I cannot see how asking them to pay for basic human interactions is a sustainable business model. After all, the people I have spoken to who have subscribed in the past have all told me it’s a waste of money and they wouldn’t pay for that access again.

While I won’t let this experience jade me, I also won’t be throwing money at a solution again any time soon. I know it’s only a matter of time before I find my person – let’s just hope it’s in the flesh.

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