Is Online Dating a Good Idea?

If you haven’t already tried it yourself, you probably know at least one person who’s been in a relationship on an online dating site like Flingster. While online dating may have had an image problem 20 years ago, attitudes have changed; now, almost a third of Americans say that they’ve used an online dating service at some point.

Just because a lot of people have used a dating platform at some point doesn’t mean they were able to find romance. That being said, signing up for a dating service doesn’t have to result in a dedicated relationship for it to be considered a success. According to Pew Research Center studies, six out of ten online daters say that their experience was a positive one. In contrast, just 12% of Americans have been in a marriage or dedicated relationship with a person they met online. Online dating is about finding romance, sure, but clearly that can include a lot more than meeting a long-term partner.

Online dating used to have a bit of a stigma attached to it, but that’s fading more and more each year. What happened?

It’s hard to say for sure, but there are pretty clear parallels between peoples’ attitudes towards online dating, and their attitudes towards marriage, singleness, and cohabitation. These perspectives have definitely relaxed overall, especially in the last decade; these days it’s not at all unusual for people to have more casual or short-term relationships. That could happen before, after, or even instead of a dedicated relationship that would have been the expectation just a few decades ago.

Naturally, this has sparked a debate around online dating. Some people feel like it’s the relationship equivalent of having fast food for every meal – it’s quick and easy, but you’re missing out on the real thing for the sake of convenience. There are also legitimate concerns about the prevalence of people who are just there to harass or scam other members, as well as the people who simply lie about themselves to seem more attractive, interesting, or wealthy.

On the other hand, proponents say that using an online dating platform widens the pool of potential choices. Without online dating, the ability to meet new people and scope out the prospects is typically limited. Assuming that a person’s circle of friends and acquaintances already hasn’t panned out, they have to put themselves out there, meet new people, and hope that they find someone. With online dating, however, users can look through dozens of potential matches in a single day without ever leaving the house.

While over half of dating platform users report having a positive experience, Americans in general seem to be more ambivalent. About half of them think that dating platforms haven’t really affected relationships and dating one way or another; 22% think that the effect has been largely positive, and 26% think that it’s been largely negative.

 

 

Who uses dating platforms?

It’s no surprise that younger adults are the people who are most likely to sign up for a dating site or app, or at least compare a few of them before giving up. Almost half of Americans from 18 to 29 have used an online dating platform at least once, a number that decreases with older age groups. About 38% of people who are between 30 and 49 years old have signed up for online dating, while people who are age 50 and up claim an even smaller percentage. This last group is still fairly well-represented though, with 19% of Americans between 50 and 64 saying that they’ve used an online dating platform before.

Interestingly, Americans who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual are far more likely to have used an online dating platform than those who identify as straight – 55% of them have signed up for online dating at some point, in contrast with 28% of straight adults. The likelihood of someone having used an online dating platform also rises along with their education level (to an extent). People who have (or will soon have) a college degree, for instance, are more likely to have signed up to a dating platform than people who’ve only made it through high school.

There’s not a huge difference in the numbers of men vs. women who have signed up for online dating. Ethnicity doesn’t seem to affect this either, with Hispanic, black, and white adults all being equally as likely to use an online dating platform.

How effective is online dating?

That’s a bit of a trick question, actually. A lot of people seem to think that they can just plug in their personal info, add a couple of flattering profile pictures, and start finding matches. After all, this is pretty much how online dating sites represent themselves to potential members, isn’t it? If it doesn’t work out, the user thinks that they signed up for the wrong platform, or that their profile needed more fine-tuning.

It’s quite possible that they could have picked a better platform, and maybe their profile does actually need some work, but sometimes it’s a little more complicated than platform + profile = romance. For one thing, it’s important to keep an eye out for trouble. From romance scams, to users with obvious red flags or deal breakers in their profiles, to people who just like killing time online, there are all kinds of ways for a match to go sour. For another thing, it’s easy to be picky when the choices are unlimited, but there’s such a thing as being too picky. Do you want to find someone who you’re physically attracted to and who you share common interests with, or are you really going to hold out for someone who resembles your celebrity crush? Even if that was in the back of your head when you signed up, it could just lead to disappointment if you aren’t willing to adjust your expectations along the way.

The point is, there’s no magical formula for online dating (no matter what the dating platforms say), but the statistics show that if you do decide to sign up, you’re more likely than not to end up with a good result.

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