The way technology infers and influences our thoughts may have serious consequences for all of us—especially when we're trying to find loveby Susie Alegre / March 12, 2020 / Leave a comment
It is essentially human to want to connect with other people, to find love, friendship, affection, acceptance, or just sex. The last time I was in the dating pool, there wasn’t an app for that. But in 2020, the received wisdom is that swiping across people on your phone is now the only way to meet someone new. Sharon Stone recently discovered the challenges of online dating while famous when her account was blocked by Bumble after users reported her account as a fake. But looking for love online when you spend your days studying the way technology messes with your mind, as I do, is a whole other minefield.
But we are all human, and so, newly single, I decided to give it a go. Two days after I signed up to a dating app, the Norwegian Consumer Council confirmed my worst fears about the industry in a horrifying report detailing the extent of information shared about users by major dating apps for targeted advertising, among other things.
When we use these apps, they track our geo-location data, and emotional state, noting our ethnicity, sexual preferences, political and religious beliefs, and HIV status. Nothing is sacred and all information creates a picture of our inner lives that can be used to exploit us. We may be consenting adults, but do we have any idea what we are consenting to? Using a dating app leaves a pungent trail of our emotional lives to be tracked in real time across the online wilderness. The business models of these companies thrive on continued use of their apps, not on successful relationships that no longer require their use. The more desperately we swipe, the more profitable our data becomes. But we suspend our disbelief and hand over data in the search for love.
Apart from one man offering “erotic life art” and another wanting to know if I was “decently tall,” all my matches seemed reasonable, respectful and fundamentally nice. I had a few coffees and met one person I liked enough for a second date. But then it got creepy.
While texting a friend, I typed the word “man,” and my phone’s predictive text suggested I send an emoji of a male face. I had never felt the need to use a ‘man’…