Dating apps became a cultural phenomenon—and a huge business—when millennials were in their prime dating years. But now that many in that generation have moved on to planning weddings or having kids, it’s time for a new generation to put their stamp on how online romance is done.
More than half of the people using Tinder, the world’s largest dating app, are between the ages of 18 and 25—the upper end of the demo commonly known as Gen Z. And in a recent interview with Fortune, new Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg talked about how this younger generation is using the app.
What is slow dating?
The “millennial journey” on Tinder was typically match, chat online, then go for a date within a week or two, she said. But Gen Z is approaching things at a very different pace: “You match with someone, you chat, you go on an Animal Crossing date, you chat some more, you exchange Spotify playlists, and then two months later, you might go on a date,” Nyborg told Fortune.
This is “slow dating,” said the CEO—a more deliberate, intentional way to approaching going from the first swipe online to the first meetup in real life.
The idea of slow dating isn’t exactly a new one. In fact, Business Insider reported in 2018 that the term was coined by the creators of Once, a French dating app that, as the name suggests, lets you match with only one person per day. Still, as Kate Balestrieri, sex therapist and founder of Modern Intimacy, recently told Men’s Health, “Slow dating is not a new phenomenon but may feel radically different for people who have been using dating apps intermittently or vociferously over the past years.”
Why is Gen Z embracing slow dating?
So, what sparked this new way of approaching online relationships? Nyborg says the impact of the pandemic has played a role.
“When I speak to 18- and 19-year-olds who are on Tinder for the first time, they’ve had none of the ‘normal’ experience of meeting people at college, or in the gym—they’ve only been able to meet people on Tinder,” she said. “Many people came to us saying they were joining Tinder out of loneliness, and we were able to allow young people to still meet new people for the first time.”
For the company, that’s meant a certain amount of helping young people “learn how to date,” said Nyborg. “There’s only so much we can learn from Netflix movies. Some of the features we’ve introduced coach you on the kinds of things to say, and not to say, and how to put yourself out there. Tinder allows you to follow all kinds of romantic journeys. Making it possible for any 18-year-old to follow their journey, feeling safe, and feeling comfortable, and finding ways to replicate or even to improve on some of the signals that we used to be able to find in the real world.”
Making online dating safer
For daters facing anxiety about moving a budding relationship off the app, Tinder has also been working on bulking up safely measures. The app recently launched a new reporting flow with [anti–sexual violence organization] RAINN to report sexual violence, harassment, and abuse. Tinder is also partnering with Garbo to offer users the option to run online background checks on a match (each search will cost $2.50).
Read the full interview with Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg here.
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