The Phenomena of Online Dating — Benefits, Dangers, and More

Ask your grandparents or anyone from the Boomer generation where they met their significant other, and the chances are they'll recount a story of meeting through mutual friends, at college, work, or even the bus stop. Meeting someone face-to-face was once the only way to form a romantic connection.

Key takeaways:
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    Dating apps have exploded in popularity because they're easy to use and help people quickly connect with potential matches.
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    However, these apps use a computer algorithm to match people, which can lead to missed connections or false expectations.
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    They can also be unsafe, as there is no way to know the true intentions of someone on the other side of the screen.
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    Consider alternatives like trying new hobbies, joining classes, or other ways of making meaningful connections through real-life interactions.

But that was in the past. With the rise of technology and the internet, meeting that special someone has become much easier and more convenient. You no longer have to wait for a chance encounter. Instead, you can now create opportunities with the help of online dating websites and apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Match.com.

Online dating platforms have revolutionized how singles meet, date, and form relationships. They've changed the entire dating landscape, allowing you to access a large pool of potential matches, customize your search experience to find someone that fits your criteria, and start conversations with them all from the comfort of your home. From swiping through profiles on your phone to crafting carefully worded messages to make a connection, online dating is here to stay.

But are these apps and websites the best way to find someone? Should you spend more time trying to meet someone in person and less time scrolling through profiles on your phone? Are they safe? And are these apps constructed in a way that truly reflects what we are looking for in a partner? If you're considering online dating, continue reading as we explore these questions.

The rise of the dating app

If you look back to the 70s, 80s, or early 90s, dating apps weren't even a concept. Then, the only way to meet someone was through mutual friends, work, or chance. But in 1995, everything changed with the first-ever online dating website, Match.com. Since then, the number of dating sites and apps has skyrocketed.

Today, thousands of dating apps are available worldwide, some general and others tailored to specific interests or demographics. The global online dating services market is valued at around $9 billion and is expected to continue a trajectory of rapid growth in the coming years.

The popularity of online dating apps is undeniable and with good reason. You can connect with thousands of people who share your interests, values, and beliefs with just a few clicks. You can filter out potential romantic or sexual matches by age, gender, location, number of children, what they're looking for, and more. When you trust the algorithm, you don't have to waste time on people who aren't a good fit for you, at least according to the apps.

Issues with the apps

Despite the convenience and promise of finding a connection through an app, there are issues with how many of these apps are set up. Unfortunately, all is not perfect in the world of online dating.

They focus on appearance

Most dating apps focus on physical attractiveness. You continuously swipe through images, maybe delving further into their bios, maybe not. You're primarily swiping on who you think is good-looking, not who shares your values and interests. And one photo with a bad angle or lighting can be swiped left and forgotten in the blink of an eye. Even if you happen to swipe right, will they? Research shows that straight men have a match rate of just 0.6% on Tinder. If that were real life, the future of humanity would look extremely bleak.

With such an emphasis on looks, it's no surprise that people often use outdated or altered photos when creating their profiles. As a result, you can match with someone you're attracted to physically, only to find they look far different in person.

They rely on an algorithm

In addition, the data-driven nature of these apps means that you can often miss out on potential connections. When you rely solely on a computer algorithm to match you with someone, you may never be introduced to people who don't fit your exact criteria but could still be great matches.

Conversely, apps can lead you to believe you have a strong connection with someone, only to find out it's a dead end when you meet in person. You may have shared conversations for weeks, even months, only to find out the chemistry is lacking and you've got nothing to say.

They could be unsafe

Most disturbing are the many safety concerns of online dating. You have no way of knowing who is on the other side of the screen or what their true intentions may be.

According to research by the Australian Institute of Criminology, around 3 in 4 dating app users say they've been victims of online sexual violence and harassment. The survey of almost 10,000 people found many respondents were subject to unwanted sexually explicit pictures, abuse, and threats. Around 1 in 3 people also reported in-person acts of sexual violence, including sexual assault or coercion, committed by someone they met through a dating app.

Furthermore, catfishing and romance scams are all too common, leaving some feeling vulnerable and others disappointed after investing time and energy in a relationship that wasn't real.

Alternatives to the apps

For those looking for love, or a hook-up, there are alternatives to spending hours each day swiping on an app. First, consider traditional ways of meeting someone organically, like trying new hobbies, joining a class, or attending social events. You can also try speed dating, blind dates, or singles nights to increase your chances of meeting someone compatible.

By working on yourself and focusing on building relationships with real people rather than relying on apps, you could find exactly what you're looking for.

Dating apps have their benefits, but they also come with many issues. Therefore, before diving in, it's important to be aware of the potential safety concerns and pitfalls and keep your wits about you.

Remember that, ultimately, genuine interactions are the best way to find someone. Of course, this can happen through a screen, but real-life experiences are just as valuable, if not more so. So take a break from the apps, and focus on yourself and others — you never know what could happen.

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