In the ever-evolving landscape of digital interactions, one prominent phenomenon has taken center stage: online dating. A seismic shift is underway as the once-niche realm of digital matchmaking has transitioned into the primary conduit for new connections among singles. Recent data underscores the pervasiveness of this trend, particularly among the Gen Z demographic. Dating apps have become a bonafide stepping stone into the dating pool for many singles, with Tinder standing out as the #1 most-downloaded dating app among 18-25 year olds.
In the contemporary landscape, online dating has solidified its position as the most prevalent method for singles to establish fresh connections. Notably, Statista has underscored the brand market share of online dating services in the African context. As of October 2022, the Tinder app accounted for a considerable 32% of the online dating market share in Africa.
Authenticity is the Key
During the inception of Tinder, the demographic aged 18 to 25 were categorised as millennials, an era marked by the flourishing age of applications. However, it was also a time when online dating platforms were more intricate and less user-friendly. Tinder fundamentally revolutionized the process of making new connections, simplifying the act of approaching someone at a party, on campus, or in a public space into the intuitive gesture of a “Swipe Right®”. This innovation streamlined the process of meeting new individuals, even those outside one’s immediate social circle, rendering it remarkably straightforward and unexpectedly enjoyable.
An intriguing shift occurred as millennials transitioned into older age groups, ceding the spotlight to Gen Z (individuals aged 18 to 25 today). These digital natives found comfort in the online realm and rejected the notion of meticulously curated profiles or heavily filtered photos. They also discarded the need for antiquated dating mind games. Over half of surveyed millennials concur that dating among 18 to 25-year-olds is now healthier than during their own youth.
However, with Gen Z, a new set of relationship priorities emerged, focusing on honesty, open communication, and a commitment to mental well-being. This shift has given rise to a renaissance in the world of dating, largely driven by Gen Z. The current cohort of 18 to 25-year-olds, comprising more than 50% of Tinder’s user base, seeks authenticity in their interactions. They possess greater self-awareness, openness, and flexibility in their perceptions of gender, sexuality, and dating compared to any preceding generation. These contemporary daters are transforming the dating landscape by discarding rigid timelines, conventional societal expectations, and self-imposed pressures for conventional labels. Instead, they embrace a low-pressure approach to dating, unveiling a realm of meaningful relationship possibilities.
For Generation Z, Tinder represents a realm of limitless potential. Whether an interaction lasts for a brief exchange of in-app messages, a day, a night, or a lifetime, young singles prioritise the experience over traditional notions of “commitment”.
It is evident that today’s young singles are pursuing a deeper connection than the conventional concept of a ‘hookup’. For instance, a long-term relationship ranks as the most sought-after Relationship Goal on Tinder. Approximately 40% of Tinder users employing the Relationship Goals feature indicate their intent to find a lasting partnership on the app.
“Many South Africans use Tinder because they believe they will find long term romantic partners.”
In a research paper titled “ Social Media and Everyday Life in South Africa” by Tanja E Bosch
She explores how South Africans use various social media apps as part of everyday life. Her research has shown that despite negative perceptions of the app and despite it functioning as a kind of smartphone game, many South Africans use Tinder because they believe they will find long term romantic partners.
For Generation Z, the term “dating” implies a sense of seriousness and a journey with a defined goal (such as a committed relationship), in contrast to older generations who perceive ‘dating’ as a more casual endeavor devoid of a fixed outcome. Young singles now prioritise cultivating friendship as a foundation, alleviating pressure and eradicating expectations. Gen Z is not rejecting the desire for romantic relationships; they are simply redefining them.
In fact, even though the top three priorities for 18 to 25-year-old singles are companionship, friendship, or a “situationship,” 64% acknowledge the emotional uplift that accompanies a romantic relationship.
Gen Z has emerged as the torchbearer in the realm of relationships and online dating, infusing the landscape with their distinct blend of candor, fluidity, and passion. This generation is not merely redefining dating; they are reshaping it to align with their values, aspirations, and the evolving contours of the digital age.