Do Dating Apps Make us Better at Dating?

The New York Times “Vows column” started almost three decades ago.

The Times had already been reporting on marriages from it’s first issue back in 1851, but the column marked a slight change in reporting. Vows didn’t just cover family lineage, but also first meetings, unexpected pairings and modern dating. 

In 2012, Bob Woletz published his own contribution to the column called,  Planning Meets Serendipity. He talked about the shift from meeting people through friends, family or in college, to getting to know someone through chat rooms and dating sites. He said, “that nothing seemed to grab the attention of readers more than a true chance meeting” yet here we are in the age of meeting people online. 

Plenty of people proudly state that they couldn’t imagine being on Tinder or Bumble only to have their romantic lives turned upside down by a couple of swipes.

It almost seems like dating apps are now the go-to match-makers for people looking for a significant other. We’ve become more trusting of online dating technology, and the stigma of meeting online seems to have almost completely worn off. So what does that mean when it comes to the way we date?

So, where did you meet?

Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where he found that heterosexual couples were more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections. Meeting online is displacing the role family and friends play in bringing couples together.

Man and woman holding hands

Let’s be honest, dating apps aren’t just for finding “the one”. They’re the equivalent of a slot machine in your pocket or a daily fix of dopamine. So are they really making us better at dating or is the world of endless swiping taking a toll on the way we start relationships?

You could argue the level of anonymity of dating apps can create a social disconnect.

Who's behind the screen?

Dating apps make it easy to hide behind a screen. If you’re going out with a cousin's friend or roommates sibling they have an incentive to put  their best foot forward. On the other hand if you meet up with a complete stranger at a popular bar, who lacks any connection to you, they can act however they want without consequence. 

It’s possible that dating apps have created walls between social norms and the way we find potential partners. On the other hand, it’s also possible that dating apps have thrived because people have stopped looking for relationships in their daily lives. 

Woman looking down in a restaurant patio

After Tinder launched in 2012, people could start looking for love, or sex, or casual dating. It became one of the most popular dating apps on the market and completely changed the dating game. It wasn’t until the following year when Tinder expanded to Android phones, then to more than 70 percent of smartphones, that truly marked a shift in dating culture.

A new romantic landscape

After all, it’s not like Tinder is all about mindless swiping. Dating apps just happen to be crowding out other traditional ways of meeting people. There are an estimated one million Tinder dates every week around the world and a 2015 study found that the use of internet dating had likely increased the total number of marriages by 33 per cent (at least in comparison to a hypothetical “internet-free” world.) So in some roundabout way, dating apps like Tinder have created more marriages. 

Man about to surprise a woman with a bouquet of flowers

Whether or not a relationship works out doesn’t depend on if a couple met online but how the relationship takes off after the initial meeting. Just because people aren’t meeting their partners through family doesn’t mean they don’t need their family anymore. It just means that the dating scene is taking place in a different setting.

This is the new romantic landscape. 

Plenty of people proudly state that they couldn’t imagine being on Tinder or Bumble only to have their romantic lives turned upside down by a couple of swipes. Column’s like “Vow” will have to start covering fewer stories about missed flights leading to weddings and more about swiping right leading to happily-ever-after.

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