How the dating world has changed, and how to navigate it
Sep 30, 2023, 3:50 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm
UTAH — The rise of online dating in the last ten years has fundamentally changed the game when it comes to finding a romantic match.
The dating world is no longer dominated by mutual friends, high school sweethearts or meet-cutes. Millions of people are now using one or two dating apps as their primary dating tool.
But many have become frustrated with the constant swiping, including Brooke and Roopak Kumar.
“I think just given the time we met, there were a lot of matches,” Brooke Kumar said. “But again, a lot of people just wanted to talk and weren’t really committed and weren’t really in the same phase of life.”
Connection through apps
Many developers are hoping to improve what apps can bring to the table. Mutual is geared toward members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Tiah Westover, Director of Marketing at Mutual, says she thinks dating apps are not only useful, they’re necessary.
“Trying to date without a dating app, it’s like trying to build a house without a hammer,” Westover said. “You can do it, it’s just a lot more difficult.” But Westover understands there are both positive and negative things about using dating apps.
Some of those difficult things can be dealing with sexual assault
A new bill passed in Utah earlier this year requires dating app companies to clearly display best dating practices to promote safety.
The bill was passed after research at BYU found there are people looking to commit sexual assault on dating apps.
Researcher Dr. Julie Valentine says one thing she still sees as an issue is that dating apps need to use the term “sexual assault.”
“We’re always looking at it. The truth of the matter is, we recognize there’s always room for improvement. That specific phrasing might not happen, (and is not) presented as an option, we need that. And so we’re always looking and considering it,” Westover said.
Westover said Mutual treats safety as a priority, even over making money.
“It’s not just this big business that’s greedy, trying to get rich, that’s not us,” Westover said. “We’re trying to create eternal marriages. If one report comes in, it’s too many, we have a problem.”
If you have experienced sexual assault, help is available. You can call the 24-hour sexual violence crisis line made by the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault at 1-888-421-1100.
Matchmaking on the rise
It’s not just safety concerns that have some people looking to swipe left on dating apps altogether.
Many people are turning to more traditional methods.
Although it may sound old-fashioned, matchmaking is becoming popular again. That’s in part thanks to several Netflix series. Add Utah’s uniqueness and you get someone like Amy Seal, a self-described Latter-day matchmaker.
Seal says she was looking for a career change years ago when she discovered matchmaking.
“I go through leads on behalf of my client, and the client decides who they want to go out with,” Seal said. “I’m not saying, ‘Here’s your one and only.’ I present options.”
“But I do it by first getting to know the client, and I do spend several hours with my clients.”
That’s something that experts say is desperately lacking in modern dating, a neutral third party.
This is especially true when so many people are meeting strangers online and then signing up to meet in person.
“I set up my clients with amazing people, but I’m not vested in any one person,” Seal said. “They will share their criteria with me and that’s sometimes hard for them to do because it’s in their head.”
Matchmaking is expensive, apps keep options open
But Seal says using dating apps is something she encourages her clients to keep doing. Mostly because it keeps their options open.
Still, this matchmaker service isn’t cheap. Seal says clients are paying $10,000 dollars for six months of her work.
“It is a luxury service because I’m spending a lot of time networking on their behalf. And so that’s the downside of matchmaking. Unfortunately, it’s like hiring a recruiter for love,” Seal said.
The amount of dates a person gets is based partially on what that person is looking for, according to Seal. “And the dates are going to depend on who they want.”
There are others working in Utah with mostly young singles to help them navigate the dating world in a healthy way.
Seeking help through counseling
The popularity of dating apps and online dating has helped Loni Harmon find her passion in life.
“I feel like I cracked the Utah dating code,” Harmon said.
Harmon is using what she learned after finding her own love match, along with her therapist background, to help others find ways to navigate the dating world.
She calls herself the dating counselor.
It’s very common in Utah, culturally, for you to feel as though you’re the only person in the room that does not understand this secret that everybody else seems to have discovered,” Harmon said.
According to Harmon, part of the problems with dating in general, are amplified by using dating apps. “They’ll keep thinking, I’m chasing a feeling or an emotion I’m supposed to have very quickly. And if they don’t feel that very quickly, there are many more options out there to continue looking.”
Parents may not understand the use of dating apps
Harmon says she sees many parents struggle to understand what their kids are going through with using dating apps. Parents can’t conceptualize the stress level it brings either.
She pictures it like this. “Any other social media platform that they (the parents) might be familiar with, like Facebook, or maybe LinkedIn. Imagine going through and trying to find your best friend, but you just have their picture, and you’re just swiping.”
Now, Harmon says the biggest thing to change in the last decade with dating, is people’s ability to decide and choose.
“There’s so many more choices available. So people feel like they just need to keep looking until they find this perfect match. They don’t understand that there needs to be enough ingredients to make the recipe but then you keep adding ingredients and things keep getting better and better. You just want enough to be able to go on that first date, and then slowly and steadily move forward,” Harmon said.
Harmon now gets invited to weddings and gets to see clients, who once struggled dating to find their person. She wants others to have that same hope.
“So my definition of a successful relationship is one where you can both try each other on for a fit and together you decide. ‘Hey, we’re not a good fit.’ Or together you decide. ‘Hey, let’s keep going’,” Harmon said.
Successful couple story
The Kumars are one such couple. They’ve come a long way from their struggles with dating apps, marking their 5-year anniversary in December. They now have one daughter and another little one on the way.
The Kumars are grateful for the lessons they learned on their journey.
“We come from very different worlds. I grew up in Davis County, he grew up in India. I think if we didn’t have Mutual, there’s no way it would have happened otherwise,” Brooke Kumar said.
Even though the dating app brought two people together from two different worlds, the Kumars say they’re able to make it work.
“I mean, there’s been a lot of learning curves and adjustments, but I also think it’s a very beautiful thing when you can understand that there are so many different ways to live life, and they’re all great and beautiful,” Brooke Kumar said.
“We can grab all the positive things from both cultures and combine them together and create our own family,” Roopak Kumar continued.
The Kumars have advice for others looking for their own happy ending. “I think a word that comes to mind is just effort,” Brooke Kumar said. “For me, online dating was very out of my element. … I was just working and busy and I didn’t have the time to be as social as I would have liked. So I did something different out of my comfort zone and put that effort towards that, and it turned out good.”
Domestic violence resources
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah’s confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
- YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah’s statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Related reading: Swiping left on danger: Combating dating app violence in Utah