Dating websites and dating apps have created a new dating culture. The proliferation of portable communication devices such as smartphones and tablet computers has opened new ways to meet new people. But the impact of this merger between technology and romance in building and maintaining long-term relationships remains questionable.
John T. Cacioppo et al conducted a study involving a nationally representative sample of 19,131 respondents who married between 2005 and 2012. Their goal was to determine the outcomes of marriages initially built on the Internet, particularly through social networking and dating websites. Results were interesting.
The study revealed that marriages that began online were slightly less likely to led to marital breakup when compared with those that began through traditional offline venues. The same marriages that began online also had a slightly higher marital satisfaction. These findings suggest that that the Internet might be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself
Another study by Aditi Paul yielded different results. A national representative study involving 4,002 respondents initially revealed that couples who met their partners online were more likely to be involved in dating and romantic relationships than marital relationships compared to couples who met offline.
However, findings from the same study revealed breakup rates for both marital and non-marital romantic relationships were higher for couples who met online than couples who met through offline venues.
Advantages of using dating apps and websites
Dating apps have advantages over traditional dating. They also have disadvantages. In their paper, Susan Sprecher et al provided a critical analysis of these pros and cons of online-enabled dating.
One of the advantages of using dating apps and other similar online dating platforms is that these mediums are remarkably convenient. They offer unprecedented access to potential partners regardless of geography. This is helpful of singles who lack such access due to limited social circle or time constraints.
The technology behind online-enabled dating services also has the capacity to easily weed out individuals who are not possible matches. Using collected data including age and location, as well as pertinent personal information including orientation and interests, dating apps and dating websites act as automated matchmakers.
Popular gay men dating app Grindr uses locations and demographic information to conveniently match potential partners. Tinder, another dating app for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, also uses location-based matching but users can further customise the results by tweaking the age and distance settings.
Another notable advantage is that these apps and websites allow individuals to easily gather an initial sense of compatibility with their potential partners before meeting them face-to-face. This brings time and cost efficiency. Individuals who take traditional dating routes would need to invest more time and effort to know their potential partners better.
Both Grindr and Tinder provide pertinent user information and introductory headlines to better introduce users to their potential matches. Online dating websites and even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can provide users with a wealth of information about their prospects. One could easily deduce the personality of another individual not only by reading their biographical information but also by observing the type of contents posted and overall online behaviour.
Disadvantages of using dating apps and websites
There are disadvantages of using dating apps and online dating websites nonetheless. Sprecher et al noted that the online or dating profiles of user reduce three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information. The details of these profile are unable to capture to those experiential aspects of social interactions that are important in judging compatibility with a potential partner.
It is also important to mention that dating profiles and even online behaviour can be a mere front. Dating apps and similar online platforms give users an ability to manipulate and fabricate information. It is possible that some individuals would resort to creating an illusion in order to become more noticeable in an otherwise competitive cyber dating landscape.
A prolonged interaction coursed through online mediums could also ruin the prospect of taking the emerging relationship to the next level. People have the tendency to overanalyse the social cues from online-enabled interactions. If the relationship continues without an actual face-to-face interaction, participants could end up disappointed due to unsatisfied expectations. This is true for long distance relationships built and maintained online.
Exploiting supplementary apps such as video calling services could be a possible workaround to the absence of face-to-face interaction. But these apps would still be unable to compete with the multifaceted experiential aspects of offline interactions.
While it is true that dating apps and dating websites use technology or algorithm to make matchmaking as accurate as possible, Sprecher et al said that there is no compelling evidence to support the claims that mathematic algorithms foster romantic outcomes that are superior to those fostered by other means of pairing. The automated matchmaking process is not completely reliable because the algorithm only works by matching superficial similarities that are not really enough to the well-being of a relationship.
Personal and social implications of dating apps and websites
The aforementioned advantages and disadvantages of using dating apps and similar online platforms revolve around technological capabilities and limitations. However, apart from these, dating apps and dating websites have several personal and social implications.
Finding casual sex has become easier thanks to apps like Tinder and Grindr, as well as online dating and social networking sites. These technologies have made hooking up convenient and immediate. This can be sexually liberating. Dating apps and online platforms offer a hassle-free transaction for individuals looking for instant physical gratification or fulfilment of emotional needs.
There is nothing wrong with casual sex and even the entire hookup culture as long as individuals know how to be responsibility. Problems surface when these casual encounters border to sexual promiscuousness leading to risk sexual behaviours.
A report from UNICEF revealed that the number of HIV cases involving gay and bisexual men is growing faster in Asia. One of the factors behind this trend is an increase in casual sex with multiple partners. Dating apps appear to drive this phenomenon.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV also warns that dating apps could start an explosion of sexually transmitted infections. Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation also argued that the quick and casual encounters made possible by dating apps increase the risk for STI transmission.
Sexual assaults or violence also appears to increase with the use of dating apps or related online platforms. Another report said that cases involving a link between rape and online dating have increased by 450 percent in five years. The National Crime Agency or NCA of the United Kingdom revealed figures showing 184 people who made allegations that they were raped by someone they met online in 2014.
Rape tends to be unreported and authorities believe that those attacked by people they meet online may be less likely to come forward. The actual numbers of cases could be high.
The NCA mentioned that online-enabled dating has produced a new type of sexual offender—one that is less likely to have criminal convictions and who exploits the ease of access and arm-chair approach to dating via apps or websites. Potential victims are unlikely to treat this offender as a stranger because they see this person as someone they have got to know.
On a less serious note, the popularity of dating apps and websites has created a new era. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and vice-president of research and innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, described this as technosexual era in which dating has not only been gamified through apps like Tinder but also sexualised by technology.
Dating apps and websites have made dating more efficient but this does not necessarily lead to long-term relationship success. These online-enabled mediums have enabled people to get along although in a somewhat infantile, sexual, and superficial way. But these mediums have also allowed individuals to nourish their competitive instincts by testing and maximising their dating potential—a behaviour that mirrors evolution and the survival of the fittest.
Are dating apps and websites killing dating and relationships?
It is still unclear whether dating apps or similar online platforms influence the quality and even the longevity of a relationship. This might not even be measurable because the quality of relationships remains dependent on an interplay of factors including personality traits and circumstances. But what is clear is that these online-enabled mediums for dating have been fuelling the hookup culture further.
These mediums offer advantages. In a fast-paced and work-intensive lifestyle, dating apps and websites provide convenience and a wider array of choices for individuals who are lacking of time and energy to meet people in a traditional way.
It is true that dating apps and websites can promote risky sexual behaviours while also allowing sexual predators to catch their unknowing prey with ease. It is also possible that these mediums promote infidelity because it provides naturally-polygamous individuals with an easier means to do the deed.
But it would be unfair to say that these mediums are killing the essence of dating and relationships. There are certainly success stories of love and romance that have sprung from these mediums. The better way to look at the proliferation of this online-enabled and technology-driven dating culture is to consider it as a mere evolution or progression in the way people interacts.
The popularity of smartphones and social networking has created a participatory culture in which individuals have become more involved in both the consumption and creation of contents. Dating apps and websites provide users with a way to present themselves in a broader audience. These mediums also provide a way for the interactions to become more efficient yet compact and mobile. The shortcomings emerging from the use of these apps and websites have always been there albeit controlled because of the restrictions in communications and interactions. This is were vigilance and responsibility come into play.
Further details of the study of Cacioppo et al are in the article “Marital Satisfaction and Break-ups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues” published in 2012 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Details of the study of Paul are in the article “Is Online Better than Offline for Meeting Partners? Depends: Are You Looking to Marry or to Date” published in October 2014 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Further details of the study of Sprecher et al are in the article “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science” published in 2012 in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
Further details of the UNICEF report are in the publication “Adolescents Under the Radar: In the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response” published in December 2015. Details of the National Crime Agency report are in the publication “Emerging New Threat in Online Dating: Initial Trends in Internet Dating-Initiated Serious Sexual Assaults” published in February 2016. Details of the opinion of Chamorro-Premuzic are on his article “The Tinder Effect: Psychology of Dating in the Technosexual Era” published in January 2014 in The Guardian.