Tinder’s popularity is obvious. Online dating, in general, has become very popular, and the reasons for it are not surprising. As discussed in previous posts, Tinder is easy to use, super convenient, and makes online dating almost game-like with swiping left or right on prospective matches. The online dating field certainly shares Tinder’s convenience. Dating websites and apps have seen a steady increase not only in use but in positive views of these services, as well. But how do these online dating services affect our interpersonal relationships?
Some may argue that online dating takes the stress out of reaching out to people in person, and provide those who are more shy or self-conscious the opportunity to freely speak to someone they are interested in without the anxieties of talking face-to-face. A study conducted by Huang and Ching found that 70% of the teenagers in their study used online dating apps such as Tinder because they were lonely and lacked the confidence to ask someone out or flirt face-to-face (Ceraolo, 2016). While this may be truly beneficial for some and give them that little push to confidently talk to someone in person, there are concerns that the barrier of the Internet actually hinders online daters. Taking that first step to reach out to someone online may be huge for some people, but the medium makes it easy for people to stay holed away in their comfort zone and may not actually do much in terms of encouraging building relationships in the real world. For many, online dating and computer-mediated communication may do more harm than good.
For others who don’t suffer from anxiety over meeting new people, online dating can pose other problems, many of which relate back to the idea that building relationships in person is falling to the wayside. The efficiency and convenience of online dating services contribute to the dehumanization of dating. While some of the biggest attractions to Tinder, for example, come from the ease and convenience of the app, these characteristics may ultimately be downfalls in terms of actually finding a quality partner (Homnack, 2015).
I realize that those who are most likely to use Tinder specifically are 18-24 year-olds, individuals who may not be looking for something serious, anyway. These types of apps have most certainly contributed to the younger generations’ placement of value on casual hookups (Homnack, 2015). However, dating becomes almost like a game and becomes more about the quantity of matches than about the quality of the people you are connecting with. Ceraolo interviewed college students about online dating and Tinder use on the Santa Clara University campus. Many of the students, particularly men, brought up that Tinder is often used solely as a means to find hookups, and one student mentioned that some of the guys in his fraternity had set up a “Tinder Competition” to see who could match with and hook up with the most girls. Men, of course, are not the only ones who use Tinder for hookups. In our society, hooking up has certainly become an expectation, and apps such as Tinder, Grindr, or Bumble facilitate these interactions.
When finding people online, it can be very easy to find out a ton of information about the person before even meeting them, which can be detrimental to when people actually meet in person. Say you match with someone on Tinder and see you have a mutual friend. Shooting over to Facebook to find your match and check out their Facebook profile is easy, and takes some of the mystery out of this person. While that may be nice in some cases, it doesn’t leave much up to the imagination and takes some of the fun out of getting to know a person (Ceraolo, 2016). Realizing someone also loves your favorite band is so much more exciting in person than realizing it online, when you only have yourself to get excited about it with. Online profiles make it easy to filter out those who have traits you may not agree with. While this is usually somewhat of the point of dating profiles, it also makes it easy to pass up on someone who may actually be a great match for you, but they prefer Harry Potter over Star Wars so you’ll never get to know them.
Services such as Tinder that are much more appearance based than, say, eHarmony or Match.com sees the same sort of problematic filtering. You may swipe left on someone who shares a ton of interests because you don’t find yourself particularly attracted to them, but had you met that person in the real world a real connection could have been found. The process of going through profiles takes some of the vulnerability out of dating, especially for the first date, and that vulnerability is vital to making deep connections (Ceraolo, 2016). Additionally, while someone may appear to be an excellent match online, both in interests and appearance, finding someone who compliments you behaviorally is an area that lacks on the Internet (Homnack, 2015).
Dating apps and websites also make infidelity much easier. People are able to find romantic and sexual partners outside of their own social circle. Ashley Madison was a dating website that encouraged and enabled married people or people in relationships to have affairs more easily (Homnack, 2015). While most dating apps and websites are not used solely for that purpose, the ease of creating profiles or downloading apps certainly makes finding someone to slyly cheat with less of a hassle.
While much of what I have discussed here shows the more negative side of online dating services, many people still really love using these sites and apps, and have luck with them, whether it be for finding love or finding a hookup.
As you can see from the graph, most people have a positive opinion of dating services. The decrease in the belief of desperation fueling the use of online dating services suggests, at least to me, that more people are using them because of their ease, convenience, and success rates. While the last component seems to be reflective of some of the things I’ve mentioned, the overall consensus appears to show the general appreciation of dating services.
Ceraolo, M. (2016). It’s a Match: How Society’s Dependence on Efficient Technology Effects the Ways We Date. Santa Clara University. Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/12
Homnack, A. (2015). Online dating technology effects on interpersonal relationships. Santa Clara University. Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/4
Pew Research Center. (2013). Online Dating and Relationships. Retrieved from http://www.secretintelligenceservice.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/PIP_Online-Dating-2013.pdf