Has Swiping Culture Made Relationships Disposable?


Gabrielle White

It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly mobile, faster-paced, convenience-based world. The criticism of the resulting “throwaway culture” is widespread. So how do these broader changes affect us and our love lives?

What is “throwaway culture”?

Researchers Omri Gillath and Lucas Keefer are two researchers who have studied “throwaway culture” as it relates to people moving around. They surveyed research participants on their history of moving around, to find that people with a history of moving frequently disposed of things more readily than those with deeper roots.

This tendency held up even when the researchers tweaked the experiment: when subjects were primed to think about moving, even if they had not actually moved, they still showed increased propensity to dispose of things.

What does this mean for love?

In an interview with the LA Times, Gillath says “throwaway culture can include relationships.” The experience of frequently moving may nudge people to treating their relationships as more disposable.

In a similar way, popular criticism of apps like Tinder is that they facilitate throwaway culture by creating the illusion of infinite mating options. This makes individual people seem easily replaceable, and therefore dispensable. If this is true to experience for the majority of users, it could be problematic long-term: research shows that a lack of fixed, meaningful relationships is bad for our health.

So is it harder to form meaningful relationships? We wouldn’t be discouraged. Dating apps and sites do make it more likely that you’ll meet someone of interest, and despite the alarmism, they can and do lead to meaningful relationships. Happy swiping.

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