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Why conspiracy theories thrive on dating apps


It can be difficult to stand out from the crowd in the world of online dating. Almost everyone is attractive to someone, but on The Apps you can mostly find an unattractive jumble of platitudes and peep show quotation. It’s difficult; the nature of these platforms means that self-describing parameters are limited. Typically, users are given a set of prompts to choose from; Hinge invites you to share a “social cause you care about”, while Bumble suggests you tell your potential romantic partners your “zombie apocalypse plan”. Many people, in this dreary landscape of sarcasm-filled love language and climbing enthusiasts, are turning to unconventional tactics to sell themselves online. Then there are the conspiracy theories.

Pretending to believe that the Earth is flat or that the royal family is killing Diana may seem like a strange way to look for love. Dr Siân Brooke, an LSE-based computational social scientist whose work covers, among other things, self-representation on dating apps, suggests that conspiracy theories and other dating app content from niche serve as a “fishing rod,” a mechanism for distinguishing people with whom one might share a sense of humor and a set of cultural references.”It’s in group signage, seeing who’s in the joke like way to bond,” she says, “you want to find people who value things on the same level you do; not taking things too seriously, knowing what you mean ironically and what you don’t. ‘is not “.

This matches the experience of Tim (24), who says he used conspiracy theories when dating. It’s, he thinks, a way of trying to signal that you’re a little too cool for apps. “I don’t think anyone really wants to use an app and I don’t think there’s a lot of dignity in them, so I respect profiles that are aware of that, and try to make mine like that.” It’s also, he says, “very telling if they say something crazy or racist” in response.

Laura (28), says “stupid dating app prompts are a golden opportunity for a good time”; they’re also a good “shortcut to finding someone who shares your humor and worldview.” She wrote on her profile that “Greg Wallace orchestrated 9/11,” and described herself as a “club card truther” (there’s a grain of truth in this one, she insists). – “they are stealing our data, the club card is a hoax, you are the product”). Ellie (24), who has used both ‘Boris Johnson’s baby is fake’ and ‘Epstein didn’t kill himself’ as dating app prompts, says ‘they can be the basis of ‘a fun and interesting conversation that is neither boring nor cliché’. because “people on dating apps generally want to present themselves as interesting and thoughtful about things, and conspiracy theories can be a useful tool to demonstrate these qualities without appearing pretentious.”

Conspiracy theories about deceased pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein are particularly prevalent on dating apps, reflecting his position as one of today’s most popular conspiracy theories (an example of his ubiquity; a few years, a friend’s coworking space in central London ordered in bulk Coffee brand “Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself”). Annie Kelly, online conspiracy researcher and UK correspondent for the QAnon Anonymous podcast, believes its popularity stems from the fact that it is “a report that has spread so widely both in the established press and in more stigmatized or informal online spaces”.

“Both worlds were talking about his suicide on a somewhat similar level,” she says. “‘Epstein didn’t kill himself’ is a hard-hitting meme, much like ‘Bush did 9/11’ before it, as it references a well-known event, indicates access to secret knowledge, and also plays knowingly with taboo or serious subjects”. A perfect way, then, to show off his edgy sense of humor and awareness of current cultural events.

Of course, not everyone finds Epstein a suitable subject for court. Callum (26), whose choice dating app conspiracy theory is “Finland isn’t real” (“a fun starting point”), finds Epstein’s jokes distasteful; “It’s saying ‘I’m an angry person.’ irony, after all, tends towards sincerity (like Reducer the dish; “man being ironically sexist is also normal sexist”). “If you put Epstein jokes on your profile, you’re signaling that you know about the case and that you think it’s somehow appealing, or appealing to know about,” says Dr Brooke. “You put yourself in the position of devil’s advocate from the start and hope to build social tension and attraction through that to start a conversation that goes beyond small talk.”

When thinking about how conspiracy theories are deployed, it’s also worth considering how men and women screen differently in the dating world. Eleanor Sharman, founder of dating start-up Swan, notes that men make up around 85% of all app users in the UK, according to a study, and so women looking to date men often filter out strictly. “Professing to believe in conspiracy theories is a great way to do this, as it alienates a large chunk of potential mates – while also conveying information about your sense of humor and capacity for irony,” says Eleanor. “Men, on the other hand, might turn to conspiracy theories in an effort to stand out from the crowd: we know divisiveness isn’t a bad thing when it comes to dating. line reveals so little information that you have to make it as dense as possible, and if you can say “I’m interesting, different and funny” with just one “Freemasons did 9/11”, by that measure that you’re doing pretty well.

Depending on how you count it, somewhere between 40-60% of the population believes at least one conspiracy theory, but there’s no reason to believe that’s particularly increased in recent years. What has however, with our heightened online societalness, is our mastery of “conspiratorial language,” as more and more vernaculars from abroad and less savory morsels from the internet wash up on the shores of mainstream culture. Consider, for example, the greater prevalence of words like “truth” or “looted.” It is therefore logical that if we speak this language more and more, we also encounter this language more and more.

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