Is this new app changing the dating landscape?
When now-infamous dating app Tinder made its first appearance, the world clutched its collective pearls and wondered if we had all, finally, gone too far. A far cry from the old “he loves me, he loves me not” dating model of generations past, Tinder promised to cut to the chase by only matching those who already expressed mutual interest. Now, with Tinder scarcely a few years old, the latest development in dating technology is French made app, Happn.
How does Happn work?
Instead of walking through the supermarket and wondering if that cute prospect who was smiling at you in the queue was interested, Happn offers to let you know for sure. Quickly sign onto Happn and if your prospect uses the app and is interested, the match is made. In real time. The app uses GPS to scan a 250m radius and if the other person isn’t keen, it doesn’t, well, happn.
The app had more than 250,000 French users mere months after it was launched, with thousands of Londoners following suit, suggesting that the app does have some appeal. But already, people are wondering out loud whether Happn is just another way for technology to cheapen human connection.
What might make people anxious about a tool like Happn is how swiftly it demolishes the risk in dating, making something as nuanced as human relationships a thing to be optimised and monetised.
The “hook-up” culture – superficial gratification or sexual liberation?
Experts have worried for years now about the instant gratification and low investment of today’s “hook-up culture”, but in many ways, the app also allows a kind of emotional and sexual liberation – not to mention saving time. Courtship rituals can become more private and people can express their true desires without judgment. No match? No hard feelings. People can simply move on without embarrassment.
As a couples counsellor, I am always interested in the ways that technology can both help and hinder our ability to build healthy relationships. Our world is growing in complexity every day, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the ways we maintain our social lives through tools like social networks and dating technology.
Some things never change though. Whenever we open ourselves up to connecting with another person, we also open ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt or rejected. It’s simply a risk we take. The promise of an app like Happn is that this risk can be reduced or even eliminated. An unwillingness to engage fully, to invest, to take the risk of rejection by showing interest – in short, to be vulnerable – could also spell shallow connections, though.
A new approach to dating?
The advent of a new tool like Happn is a great opportunity to reassess our approach to dating and relationships. While something like this certainly offers fun new avenues to explore, I’d caution against using it to replace our own inborn intuition and social skills. Mankind has evolved sophisticated ways to court, to flirt, to express our interest in millions of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, and yes, to occasionally agonize over rejection or the mystery of how someone feels about us.
Technology can only help up to a point. Learning how to relate to others respectfully and compassionately, to know ourselves and to commit to communicating our needs – all of this is as necessary now as it ever was. Because of the universal desire to save face, Happn could really take off. But what would happen if you passed an attractive stranger in the street and they weren’t a subscriber – would you still remember how to approach them and say hello?