Virtual Dating? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As someone who has been in a serious relationship for a little over 7 years, I have never had the need or desire to pursue online dating as a means of finding a relationship. However, we are living in a world that is wrapped up in swiping left or right to possibly find the love of your life. I see it every day whether it be while walking to class, pregaming to go to the bars, or even just while sipping on a coffee at Starbucks. People want to find their person and seem to be more confident online. According to eharmony.com, 40% of Americans (40 million) use online dating websites and apps. With that being said, online dating can have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to security, safety, and honesty. Melissa Lin from TopTal.com says that the top three most popular online dating apps in the United States as of December 2017 are Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Match.com. Amber Brooks from datingadvice.com says that “as digital natives came of age, online dating became less of a taboo and more of a given.” Virtual dating is convenient for all parties, but is it too convenient?

Individuals searching for their Mr. or Mrs. Right really do have the chance of finding their person through online dating websites and apps. There are hundreds of websites to choose from when deciding which application best suits what you’re looking for in a partner, such as religion based sites or interest based sites. Below shows a visual that emphasizes the fact that 12% of dating website or app users have married or been in a relationship with an individual they met via that site. EHarmony also states that “20% of current, committed relationships began online.” They do say that your “best chance” of finding real love is through mutual friends, but they make sure to note that love can be found elsewhere. People know what they want in a partner and tend to be upfront and clear about this when swiping on potential love interests. It does help that the pool of opportunities is cast world wide as online dating app users are from all over the world. Having conversations with individuals via online dating sites can be a way to get to know someone better before deciding to take that relationship further. Sharing interests, goals, and values with someone online can be liberating in that you are able to tell this person anything and everything with the hopes of not being judged in the process. Many people find that online dating can be a positive experience as seen in the above and below graphics. 

Although this is a very promising statistic that love can be found online, many individuals feel that the culture of online dating has changed over the years. Specifically, that young adults or those in their mid to late 20s or 30s have used online dating as a means to simply meet and “hook up” with each other. My longest peer, Rachel, told me that she thinks “online dating sites are just for sexual interaction when you’re in college, but maybe as people get older they use it more for actual dating.” I find that this seems to be the common answer for those between the ages of 16-25. According to Melissa Lin from TopTal.com, “In a survey conducted in August 2017 of 6,458 online daters over the age of 16 years old and from 30 countries revealed that 48% of online daters are looking for fun, among other things.”. Lin says that other users mentioned using online dates to find friends, to find a partner, or for sex (Lin, 2017). After talking with another friend of mine who has been in both committed long term relationships and has dabbled in the online dating lifestyle, Emily said that shows like Catfish on MTV have “messed with my head because it’s hard for me to personally trust people online.” Emily and I then spoke about how these kinds of shows are, in a way, helping those who date online because these shows emphasize on the fact that people can be lying or falsifying the truth in any manner. It just teaches us to keep our eyes open to all possibilities.

With the above information being stated, more people than not are lying about something on their dating profiles. EHarmony also states in their “Online Dating Statistics” article written by Isabel Thottam, that 53% of people lie on their online dating profiles. Specifically, “20% of women surveyed by global research agency Opinionmatters admitted to using an older photo from when they were younger and thinner. More than 40% of men said they lied about their jobs in an effort to sound more successful.” I know that we all have insecurities that we wish we did not have, but lying about them in the process of finding your life partner may not be the smartest decision. Age, height, weight, job title, and income may be aspects of ourselves that we frown upon, but we should not let that be a deciding factor for someone else. After talking with another close friend, Kayla said that “online dating is not an ideal way of getting to know someone because both people are hiding behind a screen and have time to craft the perfect responses.” She also told me that she thinks online dating does not always show your true intentions and imperfections because of the fact that people lie on their profiles and in conversation with potential “matches.” Being honest and showing off the real you will set you ahead of everyone else.

Now I know I have focused on a lot of the disadvantages of online dating in terms of lying and bad intentions, there are other advantages to it then just the possibility of finding your person. When talking with my mom, who was never in the online dating world, she said “I think online dating apps allow for a wider variety of dating prospects, but it also takes away the personal way of setting up people you know with each other.” My mom grew up in a time where friends were setting each other up with people they thought they might connect with. She also said that this was often done in a truly blind manner like we see in the movies. From other research and talking with many of my friends and family members, I can conclude that online dating can be scary because you are putting yourself out there to a pool of millions of people, however it can be better for those who are more introverted but still want to date.  It is important to stay aware of the fact that not everyone is telling the truth online and to be cautious when deciding to meet with strangers face-to-face. However, online dating saves time, allows you to be specific about what you want, is less stressful than offline dating, is incredibly entertaining, and can make rejection a bit easier.

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