Technology has made it possible to reach out to people, regardless of geographical distances. People today use their smartphones not only to simply work, shop, and play, but also to manage their personal life. This includes the way people conduct their interactions in building romantic and non-romantic relationships.
When the Pew Research Center polled Americans in 2005 about online dating, only 44% believed it was a good way to meet people, and the majority said it was a poor substitute for forming connections in the “real” world. Since then, the way people interact, meet, and show affection has evolved tremendously. In fact, when Pew Research Center conducted a follow-up survey ten years later, the proportion of people who thought internet dating was a decent method to meet others had increased to 59%.
The approach of online dating is similar to that of other social media platforms, but it also gives users the opportunity to meet others who share their interests, dislikes, and qualities. This makes online dating applications distinctive as these criteria also increase the likelihood that a user will like the person they meet on a date. Due to this, online dating services saw a rising percentage of people who are forming lasting and meaningful relationships online.
Experiences in online dating
Online dating can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Some people have had great success with online dating, resulting in long-term partnerships. Others have tales of befuddlement and frustration.
According to a poll conducted in 2019 by Pew Research Center, three out of 10 Americans have ever used an online dating site or app, with 11% having done so in the previous year. Some claim these platforms have helped them create meaningful relationships. The study saw that 12% of participants have experienced being married or in a committed relationship with someone they met on a dating site or app.
While most online daters think their experience has been favorable overall, they do point out some of the disadvantages of online dating. Americans who have used a dating site or app in the last year report feeling more frustrated (45%) than hopeful as a result of their previous encounter (28%). Out of those who are active users, 29% think that online dating has made them feel more hopeful, while 35% say it has made them feel pessimistic. Similarly, 32% believe online dating sites or apps have made them feel more confident, while 25% say they have made them feel uneasy.
Advantages of online dating
As with any other method of dating, meeting someone online has both advantages and disadvantages. Finkel et al. (2012), considers three major services that online dating sites offer to understand how online dating varies from traditional offline dating in essential ways. This also considered the circumstances in which online dating produces better romantic consequences than traditional offline dating:
- Access: This refers to the users’ exposure and opportunity to identify potential romantic partners whom they would not otherwise meet. The use of an online dating program is convenient, and the effort of searching matches may be done from any location. It provides users with unprecedented levels of access to potential companions, which is especially beneficial for those who might otherwise lack such access.
- Communication: Online dating applications allow users to use computer-mediated communication (CMC). This helps users interact and garner an initial sense of compatibility with specific potential partners through the dating site before meeting face-to-face. People are more susceptible to sincerely answer questions regarding their purpose of dating to find relationships that will fully correspond to their preferences.
- Matching: Many websites feature an easy-to-use search engine that lets you find matches based on gender, age, hobbies, and aspirations. In an online dating survey, 72% of women said it was extremely essential that the profiles they looked at included information regarding the type of relationship the other party was seeking, compared to around half of males (53%). Women are also more likely to give more significance in finding partners that fit their criteria on religious beliefs (32% vs. 18%), occupation (27% vs. 8%), or height (27% vs. 8%) than men. Other gender disparities are more subtle, such as the relevance of users’ hobbies and interests, their racial or cultural heritage, or political involvement.
Disadvantages of online dating
While there are definite advantages to online dating, there are also some cautions to take. Users should be vigilant in creating relationships with people online as some may have malicious intent. Some of these disadvantages include the following:
- Idealization of the image: An idealistic image of your interlocutor with merits that aren’t inherent in them may appear. If the face-to-face meeting is postponed for a long time, it will be much more difficult to match the created image to a real person later. According to a Pew Research Center survey, women who have used a dating site or app are more likely to find it difficult to find individuals they were physically attracted to (36% vs. 21%) or who liked someone they would like to meet in person (36% vs. 21%). Male users, on the other hand, are more likely than female users to claim that finding people who shared their hobbies and interests was at least somewhat challenging (41% vs. 30%).
- Harassment. While online dating apps or sites provide users with greater convenience in communicating and expressing themselves with potential matches, this is also their drawback – in terms of social communication morale. Based on a survey by Pew Research Center in 2019 of 4,860 U.S. adults, about 37% of online dating users say someone continued to contact them on a dating site or app after they said they were not interested. Out of those, 35% reported that someone sent them an unsolicited sexually explicit message or image, and 28% reported that the other party called them an abusive term after being rejected. These percentages are even greater among younger females; six out of 10 female users aged 18 to 34 said that someone contacted them after they stated they weren’t interested, and 57% say another user sent them unsolicited sexually explicit messages or photographs. At the same time, 44% of respondents stated they’ve been called offensive names on a dating site or app.
- Short-term gratification: Offline encounters appear to be facilitated by location-based structural characteristics of online dating applications (Miles 2017), allowing for a quick fulfillment of users’ requirements (e.g. users seeking sexual encounters or one-night stands are able to find other users within a walking distance). In fact, according to the I-PACE (interaction of person-affect-cognition-execution) model (Brand et al. 2016), short-term gratification on dating apps can cultivate dysfunctional coping styles to deal with unpleasant emotions (e.g. frustration and anger). This also included dysfunctional affective and cognitive responses in relation to dating apps (e.g. craving, urge for mood regulation, and addiction).
- Increased self-objectification: As some people use online dating platforms to fulfill their short-term sexual needs, this objectification of other users has become a concern that may also increase self-objectification (Koval et al. 2019). This has been linked to mental health issues such as clinical symptoms of depression and eating disorders in the past. As a result, more research is needed to look into users’ emotional experiences and how prolonged periods of use may affect wellbeing metrics and clinical mental health symptoms through self-objectification.
When it comes to online dating apps and the separation of dating from the rest of social life, there’s a bit of a causality dilemma. It’s likely that dating apps have built barriers between the search for potential spouses and typical work and community routines. However, it’s also plausible that dating apps are thriving at this point in history because people have stopped looking for potential companions while going about their daily lives at work and in their communities.