Researchers studied the impact of online dating on relationships. Here's what they found.
Millions are swiping left, but it won't ruin your chances for love.
Being single in our society can really suck.
Especially if you don't want to be. It feels like there's pressure from everywhere to settle down — and fast. People just expect that you'll end up one half of a couple (or else something's wrong with you). And the pitying stares from family members year after year during the holidays? Yeah, that doesn't help, either.
You know what sucks even more that being single? The endless string of articles declaring that dating is dead (and all single people are doomed).
OK, they don't say that exactly, but after reading the recent Vanity Fair story "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" by Nancy Jo Sales, it's hard not to come to that conclusion. Sales paints a bleak picture of young people using Tinder just to have sex while other users begrudgingly settle for it even if they want more. She concludes that dating is dead. Even though I know better, the panic was still starting to set in.
But wait! Before you throw in the towel and buy that sad story, hear this: The data says that Tinder has not actually killed dating.
No, really. Let's be honest. Dating has lasted all these years. Do we really think the smartphone will lead to the demise of humankind? If you're hoping to settle down, take comfort in knowing that dating isn't going anywhere.
Don't believe me?
Recent studies of technology's effects on dating and relationships reveal some promising things.
1. Relationships that start online do just as well — if not better — than ones that start "in real life."
One 2012 study from Stanford University found no difference in the strength or quality of relationships that began online. Why? Because online dating has replaced old-school ways of meeting a partner, like school or church. Why would a couple be less committed just because they first started talking behind a screen?
Another study found that meeting online was actually better. Researcher John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago found that married couples who met through online dating were happier and less likely to be divorced. There are a few theories about why that might be, one of which is that when people communicate online, they tend to self-disclose more, which can lead to a stronger bond more quickly.
2. Online dating sites can help your chances of finding "the one" because it widens the dating pool.
That same 2012 Stanford study also found that online dating can be a huge asset to people who have "thin dating markets," such as LGBTQ people. Overall, the Internet offers the opportunity to meet people you would otherwise never have had the chance to meet. And because you established what you were seeking online, you already know they're looking for the same thing.
Researchers from Northwestern University seem to agree: Having more people to choose from really is a huge benefit of online dating, not a disadvantage.
3. The Internet is not killing marriage.
I know marriage is not the goal of every person looking for a date. But marriage rates can give us insight into whether having an exponentially bigger dating pool makes people more reluctant to settle down.
And guess what? Andriana Bellou of the University of Montreal found that as more people used the Internet, marriage rates actually increased. That doesn't mean that more online dating caused the higher rates of marriage. But it's probably safe to say that the Internets are not killing monogamy as we know it.
4. "Hookup culture" is not a new thing created by online dating.
The same people who proclaim the "death of dating" often blame the advent of no-strings-attached sexual activity. Errrr, I hate to make folks clutch their pearls, but casual sex has been around long before the first computer was invented. Also: A 2013 University Portland study found that today's college students actually have less sex and fewer sex partners than those who dated before the age of OKCupid.
Fellow singles looking for a partner: Join me in a collective sigh of relief.
And the next time someone sends you a trend piece telling you that dating is dead, think about what Samhita Mukhopadhyay, author of "Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life," said on Al-Jazeera America in response to the Vanity Fair article:
"Tools such as Tinder (or Grindr, Bumble, Hinge, etc.) have opened up space for people that traditionally didn't have the greatest access to sex or relationships. ... These tools have had a powerful effect on our ability to be choosy. You no longer have to marry the guy next door. These are benefits for all daters, not just entitled, sexist stockbrokers."
Turns out we're not all doomed. Phew. So if you live in the Philly or New York City area, hit me up for a drink — since maybe there's hope for us after all.