The way people interact online has been one of the phenomena of the 21st century. It’s changed everything from friendships and dating to business and entertainment. Yet, one unfortunate strand of this phenomenon is that people still don’t tend to consider online interactions as real interactions, and that impacts what they say to people.

Of course, much of this is played out in the cauldron of social media. Users tend to say things to other people that they would never say in a face to face meeting. Racist, sexism and downright obnoxiousness infect all social media platforms, with ‘trolls’ feeling safe to operate behind the anonymity that a social media profile and their keyboard affords them.

Yet, in other areas of online interaction, these issues can be a problem; even when it’s not a deliberate attempt to provoke. For instance, imagine a dating profile that simply states: “No Asian men, please” or “black = block”. To be frank, it happens a lot, and there has been criticism levelled at some high-profile dating apps for not dealing with the issue properly.

New Apps Can Help Minorities Make Connections

In fairness, there have been some moves by the bigger companies to solve the issue. Moreover, there are also apps, as you can see in this example of a list of dating apps for Muslims, which can cater for specific religious, ethnic and cultural groups. These apps are, of course, useful in the sense of connecting people from different backgrounds, which is especially important in areas where a specific group is regarded as a minority.

And yet, there is a broader question here: Shouldn’t general dating apps be neutral spaces? The use of algorithms in dating apps has also been criticised for matching up profiles based on race without the express indication of wanting to do so from the users. Indeed, some critics argue that there shouldn’t be a filter option offered for those who do want to match based on race.

It must be stated, of course, that dating apps are not the arbiters of equality. They have one goal above all else when it comes to matching profiles – the success rate. Moreover, dating apps are, by and large, a reflection of the tastes and trends of society as a whole. One cannot force a user to match with another race or ethnic group person if it is not their wish. And there is an argument that people’s preferences for a particular racial group should be treated with as much concern as their preference for someone with blonde hair or someone tall.

Built-in Prejudices Can Have Consequences

However, there are some areas where dating apps can make a difference – in the abuse of the users. Again, to be fair, many popular apps have been excellent at banning users who become abusive to others, but there are still instances of ‘soft abuse’ stemming from racial prejudices. For instance, there have been reports that black women are targeted with much more sexualised and explicit messaging than white women.

Like social media, dating apps are largely a boon to society as a whole. They are useful for connecting people virtual in a disconnected real world. Yet, we should remember that there are real people on the other end of the message you send. Moreover, keeping an open mind about the person you would ideally like to date can lead to some wonderful connections.

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