Be in no doubt, dating apps are dangerous

2016-04-21-1461265658-5144778-datingappThe circumstances that led to Warriena Wright’s death in August of 2014 will make many women think twice about using Tinder.

Wright was on a first date, arranged through the mobile application, when she died. She had been trying to escape the man she had met up with that night, Gable Tostee, by climbing away from his balcony. Tostee was afterwards accused of her murder; prosecutors argued that by intimidating Wright he had caused her to fall. This week, he was acquitted for the crime, but big questions remain about dating apps, and their safety.

Over the years, crimes related to dating apps have risen substantially. It’s not just women who have encountered problems; this week, ‘Grindr killer’ Stephen Port is on trial for 29 offences against 12 men, including four murders. In 2015, the application – which helps gay men hook up – and Tinder were implicated in 412 reports of crime in England and Wales; a 560 percent rise over the two years before. Some of the offences reported include rape, grooming and attempted murder.

The problem with these applications is that they offer very little transparency over who the person on the side of the screen is, and their intentions. There does seem to be a human need for minimised information, so that we might make better decisions. Many are enticed by dating apps because they portray people like shopping items you can throw into a basket. The truth is that no one has any idea what they’re buying.

My female friends have found men particularly elusive on dating apps, as they are not always honest about their desires. Large swathes of them seem to think of Tinder as a digital harem, that allows them to pick the best of the single market. They may conceal that they were looking for casual sex, and drop or get angry with women when they have different ideas.

On Grindr, a fast-moving sexual marketplace, the scare stories get worse. A common experience among other pals is being stalked or harassed after meeting with others users. Some seem to think that, by virtue of them both being men, they can throw out any rules over conventional etiquette – and act in an aggressively forward manner.

Overall, dating applications have proved to be one of the worst ideas for my generation. In their inception, they seemed the perfect solution for busy singletons looking for love or friendship. But the fact users act on such minimal information means that they are waltzing into strange scenarios, especially as technology eliminates gut instinct. Add alcohol into the mix, and another person’s behaviour becomes even harder to predict.

In covering the story of Wright, many papers have discussed Tostee as if he was an anomaly. The Daily Mail is flabbergasted that he wanted girls for “wild no strings sex”, and talked about his carnal desires. But Tostee’s requirements are quite normal in such an environment. Over the last years Tinder, a number of applications have disintegrated from tools to meet people into shopping tills for sex. It’s cheap and nasty, and potentially quite dangerous too.