Does Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age reflect the death of romance?

Does Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age reflect the death of romance?

Tinder is an app you are supposed to use for casual sex that every couple at the centre of every wedding you’ve been to recently has fundamentally misinterpreted. It is also – alongside Grindr, Hinge and Bumble – responsible for a rockfall-like shift in the cliff face of dating that has been changing the way people meet for the past five years.

Is this digital connection-making – and the casual hook-up culture it necessarily catalyses – something that needs to make society clutch its pearls close in fear? That’s the question Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age (Sun, 10pm, Sky Atlantic) sort of asks, and barely answers.

Swiped … is split into two parts, one being swaying, handheld-cam interviews with beautiful American young people who use and enjoy hook-up apps (broadly: every single straight American male wears a cap and thinks they’re “great”; every straight woman definitely sees the benefits of them but is hesitant to give them a full thumbs-up; marginalised folk have a much harder time with apps and don’t want to admit whether they are good or bad). The second is formed of slick, in-a-lush-front-room chats with experts who use pop anthropology to say that everything is awful. Young people get horny and old guys in glasses get mad about it. It’s a tale as old as time.

But Swiped … does go some way into the soul-deep malaise that a generation burned-out from app dating is starting to feel. In between interviews with Cheyenne, an Emma Stone-voiced brunette who worries about her appearance as it is crystallised down to five swipeable images, and shots of groups of adults enjoying a party but looking at their phones for notifications, we meet Kyle, who – as a lingering shot of him absolutely Busting Out a Guitar Solo tells us – is a cool guy. We meet Kyle first as a single man, swiping his way through New York.

Later, we meet his new girlfriend, Alex, whom he met through Tinder and is cool with having threesomes; Kyle wears a bemused ecstasy on his face, surprised he can feel this much love. A few weeks on, we revisit them for the inevitable post-breakup exit interview. It started out great, they both say, then something stopped working; Kyle was full-on, then he wasn’t. He admits that he’s back on the apps, and she does, too. “You are too?” Kyle says (Kyle is no longer happy). “Bullshit!” Alex admits she was on a date the night before, but walked out halfway through. Why go on the date, someone asks. “I just wanted someone to talk to … for an hour?”

At times, Swiped feels as if it is trying to paint too broad a picture of dating in 2018: some of the “expert voices” explaining normal behaviour sound like a documentary from 1998 where an awkward man in a jumper slowly explains that you have to “log on” to “surf the world wide web”. It is doomed to age fairly rapidly as a result. But as a snapshot of dating right this very second, it is a capable one. Watch it now, though. By the time 2019 rolls round, we will have found whole new ways to make ourselves jaded with dating.