Why Are Dating Apps So Bleak Right Now?

I’ve been on Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and OkCupid—as well as the epic dating app I like to call “All of Them”—for a significant amount of time. (How long? you ask, rudely. Long enough to know what I’m talking about!) So you have to trust me when I say: lately, something seems off

Yes, dating apps can perpetually feel like an inauspicious hellhole—that’s not news. And yes, swiping is a subjective experience, contingent on geography, orientation, app of choice, etc. But since the start of the New Year, the buffet of straight men has been particularly bleak, lacking more potential than ever—less effort put into conversations, excessive unmatching, fewer on-your-level options overall, more guys putting up a picture of a dog with a “just ask” bio and calling it a profile. Even throughout the pandemic, I’ve had a fairly fruitful swipe life, with my phone routinely presenting me with someone to get a little excited about (for at least 2-3 days). So, I pose a very simple question: where did all the quality matches… go? 

You might be reading this and thinking, “maybe it’s just you?”. First of all, ouch. Second of all, I’ve heard it firsthand from many others who are all saying the same thing: something is up! And it’s not our match count. Here are a few theories about why that might be. 

The Valentine’s Day Theory

Is there a Hallmark greeting card for men who believe dating near Valentine’s Day is an indication of being “too serious, too fast”? Because I would absolutely buy one if it said: IT’S NOT. If men are scared of the perception around the holiday, or just trying to avoid buying someone they went on two dates with an $11 bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s, then we don’t need those jokers on the apps anyway. But this theory, as it applies to The Drought, doesn’t hold up because, as evident in previous years, January is when more people than ever join dating sitesnew year, new romantic interests. I rate the validity of this theory 2/14. 

The Dating Fatigue Theory

The pandemic has definitely intensified our general exhaustion and courtship tolerance, but if “dating fatigue” is at play, then why is it mostly women saying how bleak it seems right now? And men are saying, “Everything’s fine on my end”? We know why—and we’re the ones who should be tired, buddy. So “fatigue,” while fair and relevant, cannot be the sole reason the apps are bone dry. I rate this theory 3/10.

The Supply Chain Theory

Listen, we all know the entire globe is struggling to keep up with consumer demand right now. Inconsistent delivery, delayed packages, unreliable transportation options—perhaps the same applies to dating apps. The goods are simply not being delivered fast enough. 9/10 theory. 

The Cuffing Season Theory

Cuffing Season is always a good excuse as to why it feels like there are fewer singles eagerly looking for love (or something like it) in the winter. Mutual hibernation is at its peak. And with everyone vaguely traumatized by the idea of another looming lockdown, it makes sense that this past fall even more people rallied for seasonal monogamy and (temporarily) deleted their apps. Personally, I’m looking forward to Uncuffing Season, when everyone comes out of hibernation to kiss me. This theory is 8/10.

The “You’ve Reached the End” Theory 

You’ve officially moved your dating-distance criteria from 2 miles to 82 miles and the apps still say, “Game over! You’ve successfully eliminated all the men in your town and every town nearby.” This is less of a theory and more of an evergreen fact. It means you’ve kept your standards high, and it means you may have to move soon. 2/10.

The Blackhole Theory 

All the decent men have been zapped into a mysterious black hole (marriage? death? alien abduction? a Grey’s Anatomy binge?) and they may never return. This is the only reasonable explanation—10/10.

Image: Eliza Alves /

Sara K. Runnels
Sara K. Runnels
Sara K. Runnels is a copywriter and humor writer living in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Tinder messages, Gmail inboxes, group texts, Instagram captions, one Yelp review, several spec scripts her mom thinks are GREAT and hundreds of Twitter screenshots. Follow her all over the internet – @omgskr.