Britain is hooked on dating apps. A national obsession means we are downloading more and spending more on these apps than ever before.
The revolution that began with Tinder just six years ago has transformed the way the sexes meet.
There has been an extraordinary cultural shift. The old stigma has gone and the assumption is if you are single you are on a dating app.
Data collected by app analysts App Annie and shared exclusively with Sky News shows we spend more on dating apps than we do on entertainment such as films and music.
In the third quarter of 2018, UK spending on the top 10 dating apps rose to £23.1m from £14.4m in the same period in 2017. That is a growth of 60% in a year.
Tinder generated more consumer spend in the UK than any other non-gaming app in 2018, even more than Netflix and Spotify.
And the UK’s increase in spending on dating apps is now higher than the global average.
The old protocols and elaborate dating rituals of our forefathers (and mothers) have gone.
All the fun of the fair has been replaced with the dopamine rush of a Tinder match. It is a numbers game: low risk, high yield.
Lily, a 29-year-old from London who has been single for about six years, is a regular dating app user – and has had some pretty unusual matches.
I once matched with a porn star and I didn’t even realise, she says.
I didn’t read it in his bio, but it did say. He was beautiful. But he said ‘Are you OK with my job?’ And I checked and thought ‘Oh right!’
He started asking about my sexual preferences and I was honest but he said my boundaries were too low for him.
But the experience didn’t deter Lily from using the apps again.
One of my best dates was a guy who I’m now really good friends with, she says.
He was refreshingly honest. We didn’t want the same thing so we ended up being just friends.
Ashton, 25, from London, uses Gay app Grindr for meeting men to hook up with.
He says he does not try to meet them in bars and clubs anymore because he prefers that time to enjoy himself, dance and socialise with friends.
When he wants to meet men for sex he turns to his phone. Going from first contact on an app to hooking up in person, he says, can take just a few minutes.
I prefer to meet up on a Friday, as weekends are reserved for my friends.
I won’t meet someone every day, that’s overkill. I’d meet someone once a week. I’ll log on a Friday and speak to a few guys and then meet the one I like the most.
I might browse in the week but I usually just meet on Friday. I don’t want to mix my dating with my friends.
If I was with someone then my friends would know eventually, but I want to hang out with my friends and have fun.
But Ashton has faced the sort of racism he has rarely encountered in person. He says the LGBT community has a real problem with blatant discrimination.
It can be nasty out there. It’s not as obvious today, things are more subtle, he says.
Before they introduced certain rules people would write no Blacks in their bios. There also used to be a lot of people writing no fats, no fems. To see that prejudice in the gay community is a problem.
There is no subject that has been talked about or written about more. Love and romance, relationships and sex, this is what defines us.
But with every swipe we are learning something else about our developing dating habits.
Using a sample study of 150,000 users of the site eharmony, researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute discovered that 95% of users send requests to at most 12 people per week. And they reply to fewer than seven messages.
This suggests that online daters have a maximum number of people that they communicate with at any one time.
We might be understanding more about our dating behaviour, but we still do not fully realise the impact app dating is having on our mental well-being.
App dating is like online shopping. We are presenting our 2D versions for others to make snap judgements, making us utterly disposable commodities.
Ghosting, when someone who you have been talking to suddenly disappears without trace or explanation, is what many app users hate most.
I have been ghosted a few times and now I get a gut feeling about it. Sometimes it’s genuinely fine, you know it’s going to happen and it means you don’t waste your time, says Zoe, 28.
Julie, from Manchester, met husband Matt on a dating app three years ago.
At their wedding they wanted to celebrate how they had met so they had a very unusual seating plan for their guests.
By the time we were getting married I think the stigma around internet dating had gone, she explains.
My cousins and friends had met their partners on the internet too. And people were more happy that we were happy than worried about how we met.
At our wedding the names of our top table was Match.com. We had Plenty Of Fish, we had Grindr. Everyone knew that was how we met.
Julie and Matt are now expecting their second child.
Cupid’s arrow has been replaced by an algorithm.