Online dating has changed both the dating industry, and people’s experience of connecting with others in a big way. In 2018, a national survey revealed that around 40 percent of men and women who responded (of which there were 20,000) said that they felt the relationships they had in life did not provide real connection. Combine this increase in loneliness with the forced isolation brought about by recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s only natural that people’s drive to find love has spiked.
Yet, the dating landscape has shifted away from one forged from face-to-face interaction to meeting online. But what benefits and downsides does this new format of dating bring?
Well, let’s take a look at the best and worst of online dating for millennials. So let’s start with…
Modern Dating? Anywhere and Anytime You Want
One of the main benefits of online dating is that it allows people to meet people and engage with a community of others who all want the same thing they want. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the variety of dating apps and sites that exist. Some of which cater to specific niches (think Christian dating sites or Farmers Only).
Another plus of internet dating is that this format is better suited to the changing financial situations of millennials. After all, student loan rates are increasing. Plus, the job market requires more and more experience for even lower-paying jobs.
Thus, giving millennials the option to focus on their career while still having dating as a choice to pursue when there’s free time is ideal.
Online dating also brings the global connectivity of the Internet to the table. Now, people can connect with others they would never have crossed paths within their everyday life. As a result, people are provided more chances for potential “matches” in their dating pool.
Online Dating + Societal Shifts
Another perk of online dating is that it’s tailor-made to meet some of the shifting societal norms of how people perceive dating. For example, the emphasis on marriage has died down over the years.
Divorce rates are way up from past years, which means more children grow up in divorced families. Plus, the increasing financial and educational responsibilities placed on millennials means relationships get pushed more to the back burner.
The increase in the popularity of “hookup culture” also plays a part here. This culture shift came about as the result of humans gaining more independence when younger than previous generations. The introduction of birth control was also a vital component.
In fact, some popular online dating apps like Tinder sell themselves on their use for finding people to have short-term relationships with rather than long ones.
Online dating also alleviates the real-world dangers some people experience in the dating world. Doing it online removes the in-person aspect from the equations. This allows people to date without fear of bodily harm or the anxieties of meeting face-to-face.
For many, being able to peruse potential partners from the safety of their home is an invaluable feature. This also allows people to set people and pursue dating on a “whenever you want” basis.
Finally, some sites offer “matching algorithms” that ask you to input your interests and values. Then, they match you with other people who share those values. This is great for people who don’t want to waste time sorting through others who don’t align with their worldview.
The Dangers of Online Dating
However, online dating does come with its share of risks. Chief among them is the anonymity presented to users by these sites. While this virtual distancing prevents physical danger, online harassment and stalking are sadly commonplace on dating sites.
This kind of emotional abuse is further compounded by the linking of dating sites to social media. This allows harassers to attack their target on multiple fronts.
The online distance also makes people more comfortable with behaviors that they would not try face-to-face. These include methods like “ghosting” (ceasing communication with someone entirely without warning). Leading someone on until the perpetrator grows bored of the “relationship” is also common.
This behavior also comes about due to the superficiality online dating puts on people. Consider the sheer amount of faces someone runs into on a daily basis with a dating site. As a result, it’s easy to treat their connections meaninglessly because there’s always someone else to pursue.
The layout of many online dating apps doesn’t help either, with a major focus on appearance and a simple “swipe left or right” mentality, singles find much left to desire in the process of finding their ideal match.
The ambiguous nature of the Internet can also lead to people feeling like any connection they make on the site isn’t genuine. For all they know, the person’s profile is a complete fabrication. This phenomenon is known as “catfishing.”
This uncertainty and doubt surrounding online dating can make it difficult for people to expose themselves emotionally. As a result, many people find the matches they make on the sites to lack any real spark.
Time and Distance
Another factor that de-incentivizes online daters in the United States is the potential distance between individuals. Long-distance relationships are often not ideal, and even moving closer doesn’t always help. In fact, one study found that most long-distance couples broke up after about three months of living close to one another.
There’s also the fact that some online dating sites come with a significant time and monetary cost. Finding sites where there are less fake accounts will tend to lead a person to the paid subscription dating sites like eHarmony. But, if this doesn’t work out, you’ve now sunk a sizable chunk of money into nothing.
Finally, online dating can prove discouraging in a way normal dating does not. After all, normal dating doesn’t involve someone asking out many people, one after the other. Instead, it’s a more gradual process that evolves while people grow into who they are.
Constant rejection or silence on the app can lead people to feel inadequate and sour them on the dating process.
A Brave New World
So what are the first steps to take with this new-found perspective on the pros and cons of online dating for millennials? Well, for those interested in learning more about long term relationships and emotional health in the modern age, be sure to check out the other articles on our blog.