(Long post ahead)
Technological advancements in the 21st century had indeed improved lives in undeniable ways through various avenues such as medical science, businesses, communications, and now the newest addition - romance. Matter of fact, thanks to technology, dating games had been revolutionized with a multitude of online dating platforms with the primary objective of initiating romantic or sexual relationships.
Technology and dating have evolved into a dynamic duo when it comes to finding love in this digital age, making online dating a huge role in today’s culture regardless on how much we deny using it. Despite various benefits and increment of technological convenience online dating has to offer, experts suggest it might actually bring detrimental permanent effects psychologically and sociologically, causing more harm than you would expect.
Why online date?
Instant gratification is not something unheard of these days. Evidences of how generations now are constantly plugged into social media due to the instant satisfaction through immediate floods of contents and “likes” and comments, and how users opt for microwavable food and instant self-checkout counters, displays a society that appreciates immediate convenience. The fact that current generations are so used to instant rewards groomed an expectation and overreliance on immediate results.
Sociologists believe that the culture of instant gratification contributes a significant role in the popularity bloom in online dating accompanied by several other factors. Mainly, browsing stranger's profiles online is less time-consuming and effortless in comparison to the trouble of approaching a real life person in social events tagged along with rejection anxiety. Rather than periodically learning about one or two potential partners who could be interested in meeting people to date, users of dating sites, especially self-selection sites, can learn about hundreds or thousands of potential partners within hours.
Online dating platforms provides a variety of modest cues which one can use to signify some kind of attraction without having to really commit, which serves as a less daunting option making it look much more tempting. Other miscellaneous factors such as convenience, social circle, and the ease of overcoming social anxiety further amplifies the reason to start online dating.
The growing usage of technology to meet romantic partners has led experts to explore the relationship that exists between technology and dating. Modern technology has given online daters an almost unlimited array of options to choose from, which coined the theory of “Paradox of Choice”. The theory suggests that the more choices people have, the more likely they are to avoid making a decision, or result in unhappy decisions. This is because the over-abundance of options might lead to an objectification mindset and decreased desire to commit to a single partner, making it tough for users to screen out inferior options. After every match, online daters subconsciously reshuffle their expectations and incline to find a “better” one compared to the last, leading to a never-ending search for the best.
Also, due to the wide pool of options, individuals would tend to refrain from giving their 100% in terms of effort in maintaining and upholding the relationship because if it does not work out hypothetically, there is always better options readily to choose from anytime. Overtime as the cycle repeats, it ultimately reaches a level of stagnation, leaving users to inadvertently remain single. The privilege of choice may end up resulting in a more detrimental effect instead of constructive.
Rejections are inevitable when it comes to dating, especially online dating. The privilege of diverse options comes with an intensified rate of rejections. Studies have shown that rejections from online dating could potentially lead to anxiety and depression (as if we don't already know that). It has been scientifically proven that feelings of rejections hurt just as much as a physical pain done to a person. Although rejections through a screen is less scarring than in person, the accumulated feelings of constant regular rejections might lead to adverse psychological effects such as a destructive self-esteem and a self-critical behavior. Just think about it.
Yet, the process can be addictive. 15 percent of singles admit feeling addicted to the process of looking for a date, and up to 125 percent of millennials are more likely to feel addicted than the older generations. Gender demographic wise, it is discovered that a total of 97 percent of men feel the surge of addiction in finding a date, as compared to 54 percent of women. It is believed that our brains are hardwired to find a mate.
Honestly if you think about it, online dating platforms works just like slot machines. Represented by the theory of Variable Ratio reinforcement, the little positive reinforcement one gets from the online dating platforms provides mini rushes of dopamine to the brain, just enough to keep users addicted to the app regardless of their intentions of online dating. This pattern follows the basic tenets of Operant Conditioning. The unpredictable nature of online dating also boosts user’s anticipation for the prize of potential matches, making them compelled to keep searching for the perfect match.
Lastly, online dating platforms depends heavily on visuals and photos to base off a first impression of a person within those pivotal first seconds. Looks are not everything, but it's SOMETHING to begin with. We humans are all visual creatures come on, you know it. It could then be inferred that people spend much more time browsing through photos to make judgements, creating a culture whereby the value of dating is degraded due to superficiality. Desirable characters and traits are blinded by appearances, diminishing the chances of compatible potential matches. In the long-run, the superficial culture would deepen the adverse effects on a person psychologically, leading to how people value the importance of looks over innate qualities.
Technologies facilitating romantic relationship initiation have changed, so does the attitudes towards online dating. Although no academic research was published on attitudes toward online dating at its inception, online dating historians have referred to the stigma that existed in the 1990s about seeking partners online, as well as the perceived risks associated with doing so, including the possibility of encountering a sexual predator or “psycho”.
In addition, online dating was assumed to be for “nerds,” “the desperate,” and the “socially inept”. The boom in dating apps over the past years had fueled both industry hype and social anxiety in the mainstream media and technology press, while the ethics and politics of apps like Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel are regular topics of discussion in popular digital media fora. These developments has brought both popular and mainstream scholarly attention to the technological mediation of sexuality and romantic relationships, leading to a growing sub-field of research focused on mobile dating and hook-up apps.
Studies found out that users are likely to crave for short-term relationships and one-night stands. Mainly due to the convenience and anonymity of online dating, it builds and support the culture of hook-ups and short-term sexual relationships because the idea of rejections seems more justifiable when there are no strings attached. Which also cultivated the term “ghosting”.
Online dating had also turned into an avenue to solely satisfy lust with the absence of commitments due to diverse reasons that varies from the result of past relationships, or current life priorities that does not allow them to be in a position to date. With more and more users whose desires are shifting, the stigma of finding a mate online is lessening, ultimately leading to a sociological decline in international dating and marriage.
Another major sociological impact online dating harness is the severity of love crimes and scams. Offenders manipulate the fragility of “love” and trust to scam money out of victims and “ghost” on them, as easily achieved as mentioned above. The possibilities of leaked nudes and explicit contents could potentially be used against victims for blackmail. It is a very real thing today.
With the growth of such culture, it would greatly affect the sense of trust in a societal level, not just you alone anymore, just imagine that. The accuracy of self-representation online also contributes to the blurred views on trust, enhancing the need for doubts and protective measures. The surge of mistrust would then be reflected upon consequences such as lack of empathy, unethical responses and even violence in society, further amplifying the detrimental effects sociologically in the long-run.
To wrap up, although online dating had initiated a whole new spectrum of opportunities and possibilities of meeting “the one”, the underlying adverse consequences outweigh the benefits of it. At the end of the day, online dating only offers a window of opportunity for interaction, a successful relationship still lies in the chemistry and emotion attachment between 2 individuals. While enjoying the widespread of enticing options to choose from, one needs to account for the negative effects brought upon it as well. It all boils down to individual perspective and the intention behind online dating. There is no deny that there are successful stories derived from online dating, however with the growth of a detrimental culture in the long-run, one would question its credibility and effectiveness in bringing in more benefits or harm psychologically and sociologically.
Even if you had potentially matched with your soulmate, how confident are you to overcome the negative consequences that online dating culture had brought upon?
How long would it takes for the swiping to begin again?