What Museum Visitors could learn from Dating App Fatigue

A Visit to theMuseum by Edgar Degas (Public Domain)

I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of these Dating Apps!

It is an endless visit, it causes fatigue.

It reminds me of what many visitors experience in a museum. For those who are new to these concepts, here is what Wikipedia informs about Museum Fatigue: “Museum fatigue is a state of physical or mental fatigue caused by the experience of exhibits in museums and similar cultural institutions. The collection of phenomena that characterize museum fatigue was first described in 1916,[1] and has since received widespread attention in popular and scientific contexts”

I learnt yesterday that there is also something called “Dating App Fatigue” and thought it might be interesting to compare the two:

  1. Endless Navigation

Just as we move from one gallery to the other, or one object to another part of the collection, we swipe along to move across profiles on the app. In a museum, without a clear strategy to explore particular sections or to focus on specific areas of the museum, one would be lost, or if not lost, tired physically and mentally! One could instead have a pre-conceived route or an intent to only focus on limited parts of the collection, or one gallery at a time, the strategy could vary. One could also visit and randomly choose to engage deeply with whatever catches their attention. But if their isn’t any form of anchoring that can bring some stillness in the rush, the mind stops registering the details, the joy of exploration turns into a compulsion to finish what one has started and instead of a deeper emotional response, one is often left with some pictures for instagram. Now let us revisit the app. Without an anchoring in the app, that makes one pause and have a deeper, longer, meaningful engagement with a person, it becomes like an endless museum, with each new gallery or profile bringing more and more information and demanding more and more of our energy that is diminishing.

2. Lack of Meaningful Engagement

Very often if you visit a museum, you would notice that people do not spend time with an artwork. Because we haven’t been told that we can have a relationship with what we are looking at. We can draw meaning from that experience and that the more we look, the longer we look, the more we’ll see. Instead it is like some exercise in quick consumption, you take in too much too soon, and it does not get processed and fails to have the impact it could have. Food that is not chewed properly and quickly gulped down causes indigestion, illness, or inertia, or simply results in waste. The app somehow has quick turn around, you spend a few days talking and boom! a new person appears. Conversations are left mid-way, there aren’t many meaningful connections. To be honest, at times I feel it is all a blur.

3. Need for Slowness

Needless to say, the lack of slowness is visible in consumption patterns across domains- it could be learning, entertainment, finding relationships. Consumption and speed are hard to separate in the world that we live in, and so are consumption and excess of choice- too many options!, what would need to also change is the understanding that every experience is not the same as some crazy sale. Every thing or every person or every creation that touches our lives, they are not commodities to be consumed. And one could spend time with each, go with the pace of life and then take decisions accordingly. Whether the decision is to continue to observe the same artwork or it is to not use a human as an escape from boredom.

Poornima Sardana is an independent museum consultant based in New Delhi. She designs museum strategy for education, development and community engagement. She develops and facilitates programs that focus on building people’s relationship with museums and each other through dialogue, meaning and often playfulness. She is currently researching and experimenting on museums’ contribution to society’s well-being, particularly emotional. For this purpose she is working towards her consultancy Museums Of Hope and has co-founded Museums Mazzedaar Collective with Dr. Anaja Joshi. She completed her MA in Museum Studies at NYU through the Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship, has been an Arts Think South Asia Fellow at the London Transport Museum and explored Science and Liberal Arts through the Young India Fellowship Programme. She teaches, she curates and she is also host for the podcast Duniya Museums Kee.