According to eHarmony, by 2031 it is more likely that you will meet a partner online than offline. This staggering statistic dem onstrates the speed at which online dating has swarmed society, undeniably restructuring dating dynamics as it does so.However, is this digital dating revolution delivering the answer for true love in the 21st century or dashing hopefuls' chances?
In a world where you can browse and buy anything online with just a click of a button - clothes, food, furniture, etc... - why should your partner be any different?
Over the last 20 years, the commodification of romance has seen the advent of dating apps and the expansion of a market now worth over $2 billion. We are buying into the possibility of finding love through these apps/sites, but is it really this simple?
On paper, it sounds wonderful, but are we just being sold an unrealistic fantasy that exploits our cherished ideals of romance? So is it possible to successfully apply the same rules to love and dating as we can to material objects?
I consider the option dating apps offer can be the only answer for those with insufficient time to seek out compatible partners in social settings in an increasingly busy, fast paced world. They are fed up with going out and not finding someone who ticks their boxes or are increasingly bored mingling within the same social circle.
Naturally, online dating is an appealing alternative offering some support for unsuccessful singletons in search of love. And indeed, the track record speaks for itself – one fifth of relationships now begin online – a figure only set to rise.
Online dating apps such as Tinder, however, damage the dating experience and complicate dating unnecessarily.
The increasing number of young people (18-24) using online dating - including some of my friends - while perplexing, is fast becoming the norm.
Previously, in my head, I have always reserved online dating sites for middle aged divorcees or for those working in full-time jobs - not for students and young adults who are arguably at the most exciting point in their lives with ample opportunity to involve themselves in events, societies, parties and networks. All of which provide a setting to interact with different people interested in similar past times and hobbies.
So, it puzzles me when young people increasingly immerse themselves in online dating on their phones/tablets rather than putting themselves out there whilst they have the best chance. Plus, at such a young age, why are people actively and desperately searching for a relationship rather than just living life?
Apps such as Tinder encourage hook ups and one-night-stands rather than nurturing a culture of commitment that long-term relationships demand. These characteristics may be the reason why young people use them. Such apps offer more autonomy to date which simultaneously redirects the aims of using the apps from marriage/monogamy to short terms flings and frills-free sex.
Consequently, aligning interests with someone who wants the same as yourself becomes a quest of sieving through hundreds of users to find the ideal match. They may want a partner for university while you are seeking something that will last the test of time. And, even then, Mr or Mrs Right may well just be presenting an image you want to see. This false signalling may be largely down to it having worked for them before.
The sifting through pictures lends a significant weight to physical attraction, and while I am not denying its importance, I would argue this is insufficient to sustain a relationship beyond the honeymoon phase.
Even when you may think you have found the perfect partner your preconceptions are unlikely to match, since a shocking 81% of people lie about their height, age and figure whilst online dating. People only post what they want you to know or see and vice versa.
Because the apps enable you to find profiles of people that perfectly match a very specific ‘type’, it automatically makes the user more judgemental and dismissive of anything but their type. Despite bad experiences with previously dating this superficial type, you become subject to cognitive bias. You hold onto the preferences despite mounting evidence to the contrary. The endgame is aimless flicking through hundreds of user profiles, unsatisfied by the offerings without giving most a second thought.
Such apps encourage lazy forms of communication and offer a method of dating which requires zero emotional engagement or effort. A swipe on your screen will match you with a partner allowing you to chat and get to know each other. But this detached and impersonal interaction is superficial and is destroying our ability to engage meaningfully with one another when in person.
Perhaps it’s the problem of social media and smart phones more widely that online dating is embedded within. However, dating sites, social media and the closing gap of gender expectations swiftly put to bed any predetermined dating fairy tales that involve effort, courting and chivalry. Dating as we grew up expecting from past generations is all but dead.
The alternative is meeting someone offline and agreeing to date. Sometimes there is a spark, but more likely the attraction may grow. Under these conditions, minor physical details and the perceived ideal type are less important.
This isn’t to say all people are overly materialistic or superficial but it is the search criteria dating apps currently provide so these shallow standards (height, weight, income) are artificially pronounced and subsequently prioritised.
Correspondingly, we are inclined to overlook the importance of what one can learn in person – how someone reacts to the outside world and the subtler features of charm and attraction that cannot be relayed across a screen.
Online dating also perpetuates anxiety. Waiting for people to like you back, to start a conversation, to message back, to say the right things, wondering how many other people they’re saying the same thing to, to agree on a date and actually following through with it. It is a mind game that is mentally exhausting, causing more anxiety than it was designed to eliminate.
Call me old fashioned, but I feel online dating skips a special stage in any meaningful relationship. The first time you meet ‘the one’ is a fond memory that will never be forgotten and will be retold countless times to friends and family. Perhaps it was a shared love for something that drew you to the same venue or activity. Maybe a shared passion that brought you together.
Getting to know someone through these common interests or meeting unexpectedly and experiencing unanticipated chemistry are the most thrilling and exciting aspects of dating. These are all too easily lost online, thus sadly rendering traditional dating the exception rather than the norm in today’s society.
Lucinda Obank is a second-year Geography student at the University of Manchester