Over the last year or so, it has become increasingly obvious to me that we are living in a world overrun with options. An inexhaustible selection of movies on Netflix, infinite songs on Spotify, not to mention in the supermarket, what kind of chocolate do you want? Cadbury, Galaxy, Lindt, Reese’s, Nestle, Mars? Okay, and which flavour? The list is endless. Every way we look and everywhere we turn; options, options, options.
Whether this is down to preference or a product of the environment we have created, as a society, we are insatiable for choice. Perhaps this (among many others) is one of the reasons responsible for the creation of online dating. A somewhat glamourous term with a somewhat controversial repute. I’ve created this blog, to explore this ‘phenomenon’ further. Has online dating changed the way we love? And if so, how? What does this mean for the future? All questions I hope to find the answers to.
A little bit of history
Online dating has flourished since the explosion of the internet in the mid-to-late 1990s. Match.com was founded in 1995, and by 2007, online dating had become the second highest online industry for paid content. A common misconception, that I myself fell victim to, is that online dating is a relatively new concept that we have only been doing for 10 or 20 odd years. However, this is not entirely the case.
Before the internet, personal ads were in fact mainstream in the early 20th century. These kinds of ads were especially fashionable among lonely soldiers during World War I, with many of the postings simply calling for friends or pen pals. Fast-forward 40 years or so, a team of Harvard undergrads created Operation Match in 1965, the world’s first computer dating service. For $3, users could answer questionnaires and receive a list of potential matches, a process that is still used by many dating sites.
Back to today, and it fair to say we have come rather a way from pen palling and personal ads. We now have dating sites which cater for virtually every city, sexual orientation, age, religion, race, and hobby. The sheer number of sites that exist was eye-opening even to me; a post-millennial who likes to imagine she is clued up on most things digital.
A 1-minute browse of the app store’s ‘online dating’ selection and I soon discover many glossy sites boasting anything from ‘casual encounters’ to ‘dating to find a life partner’. Some are paid, some are free, but among the most common are, Tinder, Badoo, Plenty of Fish, and Bumble. Delving further I discover apps specially for ‘long-term’ love: Match.com and eharmony. These of course come at a price and perhaps boast a slightly more mature scene. Next up are queer-friendly dating apps such as HER and Grindr, the latter I’m told is designed for hook-ups, seemingly meaningless and often anonymous sex. Religious and niche apps catch me by surprise, sites titled Jdate and Christian Mingle, spark particular interest. Lastly, for busy and single professionals, comes EliteSingles. This too comes at a price, but the clue is in the name and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for right?
There’s a dizzying range and I close the app store feeling slightly overwhelmed. What’s impressive is the multitude of potential ‘lovers’ available at one’s fingertips. Moreover, the sites seem to cater for every style of ‘dating’. Perhaps this is what gives online dating its appeal; there is a dating app (and supposedly a partner) out there for almost everyone.
So why the appeal?
Today we live in an ever-busying world with workload, personality, and social life consuming almost all of our time. Given this, it can potentially take weeks or months to score a date via face-to-face interaction (circumstances depending). Enter, online dating. Online dating provides a myriad of options in a small amount of time, and a computer screen to alleviate the fear of rejection(!) What’s more is that online dating often provides a shield of anonymity, because let’s face it, the chances of rejection are often too high to place confidence in vulnerability and honesty. Meeting online is quickly becoming the new norm for introductions, replacing the role of traditional dating methods and in many cases, merging with the functions of social media.
Online dating has no doubt given us a way to meet people away from the typical “we met through work” or “mutual friends” standard. Arguably too, online dating sites have no prejudice. Whether you’re divorced, widowed, gay, straight or bi, the choice is yours. Online dating has expanded our horizons in every way imaginable and it is now easier than ever to find exactly what we’re looking for.
So, I pose the question;
Where in lies the catch?