Ultra-modern loneliness: dating sites, an imperfect means to the end of love security

The logos for dating applications and sites Adopt a Guy and Meetic displayed on screen on a tablet.

A simple question: why Meetic and Tinder? And why, behind these technologically assisted love gondola heads, so many dating sites and flirting apps (about two thousand), from EliteRencontre to Mektoube, from OkCupid to Happn, from DisonsDemain to eDarling and from Attractive World to Once? All this did not appear by spontaneous generation. If all these sentimental and sexual dating technologies thrive this way in our society and in our time, it is because there is a demand; and there are already more and more singles, quite simply; or more and more communication, or difficulty meeting (each other). And yet, we come back to this, the mechanisms for creating meetings are abundant.

Let us now ask the subsidiary question: Why more and more singles? For the unions that have been established have been weakened for decades. We will say since after 1968. And things have accelerated quite recently.

Yes, Meetic and Tinder have been made possible by the impressive increase in the number of singles. This has more or less doubled, statistically speaking, since after 1970. conceivable; here we agree with what sociologists call autonomous paths. And then there are also more fragile couples and concurrently cheaper couple exits. Clearly, these millions of singles are too because they are allowed to be so now.

And cohorts of people who would have previously remained in a relationship have freed themselves from it, single again, to return to the dating market. Because you no longer meet once in your life, as before, but often and even often.


At the beginning of this increase in the number of singles and this explosion of celibacy, and to explain this weakening of couples, a key concept: disinstitution. It is a socio-historical process that has worked deeply in society for decades. It is clear that historically legitimate institutions have lost the power of social aggregation. Among these institutions that have been in doubt since 1968 are the family, the school, the churches, the political parties, the unions.

Overall, disinstitution is the weakening of social and moral bonds that held relationships and communities together. It also has a sociological side: anomie, a principle of disorganization and social demoralization. We return to Bauman of the “floating society” and to institutions that are now less solid.

And it has a concrete expression: the engagement crisis. Because the institutions engaged: in careers, destinies, life choices, which had to be taken on and honored. Conversely, our time allows us to try, to hesitate, to stay on edge, without being judged for these non-choices or negotiable, debatable and transient choices. According to INSEE, the number of marriages has never been so low in France as in 2020. It makes sense in relation to this commitment crisis.

Politically, the election of Emmanuel Macron and the Yellow Vests movement perfectly illustrate this disinstitution: Macron, who has been stroking the noses and beards of parties for decades, such as the Yellow Vests, confiscating social protest by keeping unions silent, is a good example of this. process to see the order in place being zapped directly. “Let’s wipe the board of the past,” Lenin would have said! The beautiful irony of the story.

As for the family and the couple, things are obvious. Where social and moral norms a few decades ago commanded to stay together (“for the children”, requires orderliness), now we free ourselves from these obligations to go out (and step in again) as a couple without too much worry. about what will be said.

For a long time, the couple was exposed to a “fatalism”. And the marital destiny was dull or happy, depending on whether the marriage (of reason) was heavily or providentially sealed by a flame. From now on, liberated for many of us from this moral weight, we are free, in a dizzying way. But the price of being happy as a couple is that the feeling of love and desire must be felt in a mutual and continuous way. And this is random and above all exhausting. So many resources need to be invested! And if the flame or desire ceases to be shared, you can get used to it, consult a marriage counselor, or even suspend the relationship amicably.

As for the sexual liberation and approval of celibacy given by society, they have weakened the institution of marriage (which in no way should be made sacred, sociologically in this regard).

In any case, a world where women can love freely is a world where there is more love.

The disinstitution had two consequences, in addition to making it easier to leave the couple: the common rise of individualism and celibacy, we come back to this, celibacy is no longer considered a curse, but as a choice of life or an assumed sequence. In a few decades, we have gone from a society in which the collective and the community exercised grip on individual destinies, to a model of society that gives individual choices an honor.

And here comes the era of hyper-centered individuals, in search of personal fulfillment, more and more aware of their balance, of their personal desires, and of their deep needs.

“Before” we first thought of the collective, ingrained in attitudes of devotion, moral and social obligations, demands of fate imposed by family, lineage, name. But that was before! Now we have refocused and self-centered, we “dress ourselves very much”, so much “the fatigue of being oneself” (Alain Ehrenberg) competes with the search for happiness, an inner compass oriented towards the “land of happiness”. There are millions of readers of Psychologies Magazine, fans of Christophe André, people with wellness and meditation apps. This makes sense for this spectacular self-centeredness.

New Age and personal development have gone through this, with the opening of “The New Ways of the Self”. The “economy of the self” and the pursuit of selfies are symptomatic of an era in which individuals have their fulfillment as an existential escape line. The search for happiness and the need to enjoy profit are the new mantras of an era that has built up the “tyranny of pleasure” into an injunction, paradoxically, so much so that at the same time a puritanism of a different order arises, and general distrust of others. It is clear that post- # MeToo and the sequence of the epidemic do not help on this, and will even highlight the tendency to distrust and the right distance; if, of course, there can be no question of putting everything in one basket, for we must not lose sight of the violence in relations which has created this movement.

Individualism is this value that prevails on dating sites and apps. There are all the marketed epicenter of a network of seemingly satisfying virtual relationships. Millions of singles long for most of them to meet. And in a confused or assumed way, they suffer from loneliness.

Excerpt from Pascal Lardellier’s book, “Loving Each Other in the Age of Masks and Screens”, published by Editions de L’Aube

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