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Are Apps the New Medium for Millennial Romance?

Love used to be a matter of luck.  You’d go to the bar with your group of friends, and—if you were lucky—find a guy or girl that you could vibe with.  These days, our love lives are controlled by our cell phones, and what used to be metaphorically a game is now literally one.

In a sense, this is nothing new. The concept of “gamification”—of engaging users in a long-term task through competition and rewards—is already established in everything from personal finance to meditation. Some of these gamified apps indirectly influence your dating life.  For example, fitness apps can allow you to set goals to gain muscle and drop pounds, so you can look your best for your next date. And if you are interested in someone that does not speak your native tongue, you can use a language learning app and “level up” when you finish a lesson.  

A mobile app known as Desire is taking things even further by gamifying intimacy itself. The app (updated on January 2019) has couples play against each other in undertaking sexy kind of dares; you can choose from over 40,000. The idea is to facilitate communication and intimacy, making your relationship more spontaneous and fun.  The dares are split into categories such as role-play and fantasy, outdoor, love sensations, and even more bold ones like, ”Risk Of Being Watched.”

Maybe Desire is not that revolutionary. After all, for years shows like The Bachelor have been presenting relationships as a contest.  Newer entrees keep elaborating on that concept, such as The Proposal, which turns love into a pageant.  Everyone got to join the competition with the advent of Tinder, in which you can crop and mold your personality into an idealized version of yourself. With Tinder, you play both contestant and judge, putting yourself up for consideration while dealing out left and right swipes by the hundreds. It’s like a drug: a March 2017 survey from Match.com found that almost one in six people feel addicted to the process of looking for a date.  

Tinder allows you to project charismatic confidence in a filtered, technological form, but can’t really do much for you when the IRL meet-up takes place.  So yes, Tinder can help you meet a variety of different people from different areas of the county or globe, but it does not guide you in being fully romantic or assist you in the social norms (a.k.a the do’s and don’ts) of relationships.

The difference between Desire and Tinder is that, with Desire, you’ve already won the game. You’ve used your phone to obtain a relationship. Do you really need your phone to actually hang on to it?

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