Despite the digital connectivity that sets this generation apart from its predecessors, it’s sadly ironic that loneliness is one of the most profound concerns of the modern age.
Tinder, a dating app in which users swipe through profiles to match with each other, announced Wednesday the launch of “Tinder U,” a feature that allows university students to create Tinder profiles with their university emails and give preference to those of students at the same school.
Tinder, of course, made sure to suggest that its app is not only intended to help students find romance: “Need a study buddy? Not a problem. Coffee date on the quad? We’ve got you covered. Freshman year and you don’t know a soul? This is your ticket to the coolest crowd on campus. Let’s face it — it doesn’t get any classier than this,” reads its online announcement.
Younger people are now raised with countless resources to make their lives easier. We don’t need to go looking for friends and partners, for example, because they will come to us thanks to services like Tinder. As such, overall loneliness should be lower, not higher. But to what extent is this true?
Over half of all Americans feel that they are alone at least sometimes, based on a survey of 20,000 adults by health insurer Cigna. The survey also found that 54 percent of respondents said they feel like nobody actually knows them well. And another 56 percent said they feel that the people they surround themselves with are “not necessarily with them.” And in the final of several startling statistics, roughly 40 percent said they “lack companionship,” their “relationships aren’t meaningful,” and that they feel “isolated from others.”
While there are certainly many concerning numbers, here is the most revealing part of study: Young Americans, who practically come out of the womb with an iPhone and make Instagram profiles more commonly than they renew passports, are more likely to consider themselves lonely. These statistics should not be taken lightly. According to a 2017 review from the American Psychological Association, loneliness and isolation significantly increase the risk of premature mortality. In a survey of nearly four million people, the researchers discovered that lonely people had a 50 percent increased risk of death before age 70 when compared to their peers with good social connections. People who are socially isolated have a higher risk of early death than people who are obese, and have a 30 percent increase in their risk of death before age 70.
“Gen Z,” the generation born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, reports the highest level of loneliness, followed by millennials. Previous generations reported loneliness at lower rates than the national average. So while students can thank Tinder for brilliantly filtering its users to students at our campus through the unveiling of Tinder U, we must also take a step back and consider whether this app is fixing — or contributing to — the loneliness epidemic among young people.
The widely cited benefit of social media and modern-day apps is that they allow people to stay connected, but they may not have all the positive qualities that consumers previously thought were true. There does not seem to be much of a point to bringing people together if the result is loneliness. There’s a clear paradox here.
In the 21st century, where we can order a pizza and have it delivered with only minimal interaction with the delivery guy, where we can conduct research without leaving the confines of our dorm and where we can allegedly meet our soulmate without ever having to meet them in person, the fire of initiative lacks fuel.
Instead of being connected by “the cloud,” it appears that a cloud of loneliness is instead hovering over us. Tinder U presents itself as a way to connect, but it may only result in further isolation.