Written by: J. Stokes – November 22, 2016
It seems, today, technology is an essential part of most people’s lives. Simple activities such as shopping are now commonly seen on an app or website. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that dating found its way into the mix. Building romantic relationships online through social media is now a regular thing. According to Statistic Brain (2016), over 49 million people in the U.S. have tried online dating. Based off these findings, it’s safe to say technology has once again shaped the way we operate in the “real world.” Nevertheless, some stigma still exists when it comes to online dating. As Becca Wollinsky shares in her write-up on the subject, some people feel relationships should be made “organically.” This method of finding love or companionship via social media is an interesting topic. People create and maintain friendships on platforms such as Facebook, after all. Why should Tinder, Grindr, or OkCupid be any different?
Let’s begin with the bad. Aside from some stigma surrounding the practice, online dating has its downfalls. Of course there is the possibility of “catfishing.” This occurs when someone uses false information, false pictures, or a combination of both on their dating accounts in order to entice potential love interests. Then there are more serious matters, such as luring victims into a situation where they could be robbed, raped, or even worse. Statistic Brain (2016) found that sex offenders make up about 10 percent of the individuals who use online dating to meet people. This stat is particularly alarming considering the fact that underage youth are tapping into this new world of matchmaking. Using social media to date is also problematic for certain professionals. Thrower and Mossman (2016) have stated that “maintaining appropriate boundaries can be challenging for psychiatrists who want to date online because the outside-the-office context can muddy the distinction between one’s professional and personal identity” (Thrower & Mossman, 2016, p. 89).
On the flipside, online dating has its perks. The whole point of sites such as Tinder, for instance, is for people to see hundreds of potential matches easily without much hassle. Using social media to start a new relationship might particularly be helpful for those who are shy or live in areas where dating prospects are limited. All in all, online dating helps many people connect and make contact with a wider variety of people than would be possible otherwise. Though this method of dating is popular among young adults, Pew Research Center has shown that even adults in their late 50s and early 60s have hopped on the bandwagon. Indeed, “singles and divorcees of all ages, sexual orientations, and backgrounds are increasingly seeking long-term relationships with internet-based dating tools rather than hoping to meet people through family, friends, church, and the workplace” (Thrower & Mossman, 2016, p. 88).
Just last week, Tinder, a popular dating app, took the convenience of online dating to a whole new level. On November 15th, Tinder made it possible for users to choose a term that best describes their gender identity. See below for a more detailed graphic on how this works:
This change has been especially helpful for members who identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming. Sean Rad, the chief executive of Tinder, became aware of certain problems faced by transgender individuals several months before this change occurred. According to Rad, transgender users were being verbally attacked by people they matched with and reported as abusive in other circumstances. Consequently, this led to many being blocked from using Tinder. The complications transgender individuals have faced while on Tinder (and probably other dating sites) mirror that of the physical world. According to the CDC (2016), many transgender people face marginalization and social rejection. This, in turn, keeps them from fully participating and functioning in society. Making online dating more inclusive of transgender individuals is a positive step toward a future where stigma surrounding this demographic is no longer a major issue.
So as you can see, online dating has its ups and downs. What we failed to mention is that this method of dating, though more convenient at times, can be very similar to offline dating. For example, in her analysis of online vs. offline dating, Julie Spira asserts when dating offline one may not be sure of their potential love interest’s relationship status. On the other hand, who’s to say someone’s OkCupid profile is being completely honest? As was mentioned earlier, people can put false information on their dating accounts. Spira also mentioned that some users of online dating may miss their potential match by limiting their search criteria to height, zip code, or income. One could say that many people act in this same manner while dating in person, thus possibly missing out on great relationships as well. The list goes on and on.
Nevertheless, it is safe to say that relying on technology too much in any area of life can lead to negative outcomes. Let’s not forget that the world was still fully functional without smartphones and computers once upon a time (though the introduction of technology has helped a lot).
With online dating, moderation is key. Though it has proved to be very convenient, we must always remember not to put all of our eggs in one basket. Furthermore, stigma surrounding those who do not organically find partners should not be an issue. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another in regards to dating. And for those of you out there who feel torn between on option or the other, why not try a little bit of both?
**What did you think of this week’s post? Let us know in the comments below!
Thrower, N., & Mossman, D. (2016). Online dating and personal information: Pause before you post. Current Psychiatry, 15(9), 88-92.
- Updated: November 30, 2016