Maybe one of the most interesting innovations of the new age is online dating, which has divided the public even more sharply. From those who participate in various online dating platforms to people who don’t believe in online-love, everybody is witnessing the emerging presence of commercials for these websites and apps on TV, magazines, billboards, bus stops . . . which can be but one indicator to all the skeptics that these things are actually working. They wouldn’t exist if people were not interested in them, no? Being totally uninterested in this approach to dating, I had never really thought about it until I got myself in a situation where two of my closest friends started to be slightly obsessed with Tinder. One of them is close to getting married to her tinder-date, while the other one has had no luck so far finding a decent person even to talk to. These two totally different stories have made me think a bit about what decides the destiny of online daters.
First, I was curious to see what makes people start using these apps. Through conversations with various people I learned that the most common answer was “just for fun”. In a busy world, where working over-time is becoming a normal thing, dating sites are a simple way to meet new people without being obligated to meet them again or explain things. In most cases, people don’t even meet. They just chat, make the time go faster, and when the time for a real date comes – they just stop the conversation. As one of my interviewees explained: “There are way too many fish in the sea. You know that with every swipe to the right, a better option may come up. So it´s totally normal (and it happens a lot), that you talk to someone, he/she asks you out, and then you never hear from this person again. That person just kept swiping, and maybe found something else, more interesting at the moment.”
From what I have heard, online-daters mostly decide to go out with someone who somehow convinces them that they are just like the description on the dating app. No one wants surprises. The people behind the screens can simply make up stories to attract a certain person, or photoshop their photo, or lie about their intentions, or simply be something else. As my unsuccessful-dater explained: “You can never tell about the person just based on chatting. Even if he sounds super funny and smart and 100% your type on Tinder, it does not mean he actually is. I only met up with guys who seemed really interesting and cool on tinder, but in real life, they often turned out to be very quiet, or clingy, or drunk (when they showed up), or 10cm shorter than they claimed to be, OR they just bored me to death.”
But attitudes towards online dating have become more positive over time, and it seems that everything depends on the approach. As another friend tried to clarify: “Tinder is actually fun! Especially if you´re in a new town and need someone to hang out with. Lots of my female friends, who haven´t tried Tinder, have asked me if I´m not scared to go out with total strangers: What if it’s weird . . . what if he´s a psycho? Well . . . no. The people on Tinder are just normal people, looking for dates or hook-ups or just want to hang out with locals while traveling. And most of the time there´s something „wrong“ with the guy, so you´re not interested in seeing him again. But even then, it´s better than sitting at home and watching TV. I joined Tinder after moving to a new town. I didn´t know the city and I didn´t really know anyone there, so I thought it´d be fun to meet people and that way also get to know the best bars and cafes in town. Tinder seemed like the easiest way to do it.” Maybe I would need a weekly column to write about all her adventures with her tinder-dates.
Dating sites are also raising the chances of finding the right person because they widen the dating pool. This is also a good way for shy people to come out, and break the ice without fearing the reaction of the person on the other side. These platforms are encouraging different matches as well, they are bringing some people together who would not go for a date before, if they met in a real life. A young guy who recently joined Tinder states: “I joined Tinder just for fun and to get to know new girls. I haven’t had any big expectations, but also no prejudices like many young people usually have. Since I am spending most of the year abroad, and social networks became the most common way of communication, dating sites are the logical outcome of these circumstances. I don’t know if I just had luck, or the right approach, but on my first date with a girl from Tinder, I started a normal relationship. Probably, I would not have had a chance to meet her any other way.“
Online dating is also not spread evenly spread around the world. This type of dating is more common in the USA and Australia than in the rest of the world. A young European who visited Australia explains: “In 2015 I visited a friend in Melbourne and I was surprised with the fact that the classical way of meeting people in Australia was totally passé. After a talk with my friend, who also moved from Europe some 10 years ago, I found out that dating there has changed enormously, and that dating apps have taken over the market. But unlike in Europe, people are not really aiming to give it a try and maybe go out again. Even when I liked a girl there, and asked for a telephone number, she would ask what I needed it for.”
The experiences with online dating vary from person to peson, and it seems that everything depends on intentions, expectations, and luck of course. The trends are also showing that online dating is much more socially acceptable than it was just a few years ago. This is also one of the reasons why we hear more and more often that the people who are standing in front of the altar met through an online network. Maybe these examples will turn things around so that in a couple of years the skepticism will totally fade, but this is probably a case where we’ll just have to wait and see.