The holiday season is supposed to be about spending time with family and loved ones, so why are so many people rushing to dating sites such as Tinder? It would seem that online dating platforms are busiest between December 26th and February 14th . Coincidence? I think not. While these apps may be gaining popularity among the general public, I worry they may be doing more harm than good.
The argument against dating sites.
Firstly, it could be argued that dating sites reduce the intimacy of dating. According to Scarlett Russell, one man she interviewed stated, ‘you’re always prowling, you can swipe a couple hundred people a day’ . Rather than get to know these individuals, they are taken and assessed at surface level, and ultimately rejected if they don’t fit the shallow expectations given. This is the unfortunate reality of dating apps, they place more of an emphasis on appearance as opposed to personality. In this way, dating has become more of a hot or not contest as opposed to making meaningful connections.
In fact, many believe that individuals who use dating sites aren’t interested in making long-term connections. Russell explains that sites such as Tinder ‘prompts easy access to instant hook-ups and created a generation of sex-obsessed commitment-phobes’ . These apps encourage throwaway relationships and focus on the immediate gratification sex can offer. Similarly, on a survey I conducted, when asked about how dating has changed over time the responses echoed Russell’s beliefs. Half the responses mentioned that dating was no longer about lasting a life-time and three-quarters identified dating as having transitioned into something more casual.
Not only have dating sites led to relationships becoming less serious, but it has also made the dating scene a crueller place. I remember in my first year, an acquaintance mentioned their first encounter with Tinder. They described downloading the app in a foreign country out of curiosity and asking a girl out on a date for ‘future practice’. For them, the date meant nothing and was cold experimentation to prepare them for any encounters they may later face. Ashley Fetters argues behaviour like this occurs because there is no incentive for people to behave considerately: ‘the social disconnect between most people who match on [dating sites] – has also made the dating landscape a ruder, flakier, crueller place’ . If you are never going to meet them again why should it matter how you treat them?
The very nature of dating sites is contradictory, on the one hand, they claim the purpose of establishing meaningful relationships but on the other, they encourage users to match with individuals they find attractive. What if you swiped past the person perfect for you because you initially found them unattractive? Dean Kissick criticises that Tinder can never work for establishing a relationship because ‘the whole point of falling in love is that you cannot choose who you fall in love with’ . If love is spontaneous how can we plan who to love?
Importantly, they also place unnecessary pressure on offline dating. Dating sites are easy to navigate, you can face rejection at home while on the toilet and no one would know any better but offline dating is much more daunting, your successes and failures can be seen by everyone. What’s more, if you end up in a successful relationship you end up being compared to those that met offline. It’s a never-ending cycle of criticism and pressure.
On the contrary, for those on these sites who aren’t shown much interest, it can lead to feelings of isolation and rejection. Dean Kissick describes ‘I rarely receive anything, and neither do my mates. Our phones lie fallow, with neither chirrup nor ping. It’s lonely, like one of those tragic restaurants that are always empty, and every time you walk by you wish – really wish – that there were customers inside, but there never are. It is rather emasculating like that’ .
If these sites cause so many problems, why bother using them?
The argument for dating sites.
One reason why people may enjoy using dating websites is because they increase the dating pool by introducing you to people you otherwise would never have encountered. Most people tend to keep in their own little bubble, rarely straying out, yet dating apps force you out of your comfort zone by presenting you with all kinds of people. Even if you were to go out in person and talk to everyone you encountered, you still wouldn’t encounter everyone as some people prefer to stay in or have unsteady work hours. By using dating sites, you are given a wider range of people to talk to.
Secondly, not all experiences are bad, some can lead to successful and happy relationships. One person I surveyed stated that Tinder had led to their current long-term relationship. Meanwhile, there are countless other stories of dating websites leading to healthy and committed relationships. While online dating remains to have an awkward stigma, it is ‘the most popular way couples meet’ according to sociologist Michael Rosenfeld .
Online dating can also create a clear distinction between dating and your day-to-day life. According to Eli Finkel ‘for better or worse, people are setting up firmer boundaries between the personal and the professional’, making clear distinctions between these environments . Not only does this encourage professionalism at work by increasing the number of dating prospects but it reduces any awkward encounters you may encounter if you dated someone close to you.
Crucially, online dating also encourages people to re-evaluate what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Eli Finkel justifies that dating sites have merely ‘lowered the threshold of when to leave an unhappy [relationship]’ instead of inspiring throwaway relationships . Online, if someone treats you badly you can easily cut ties. The ease of modern dating has taught people not to settle for a partner simply because they are there, rather it emphasises the importance of compatibility and happiness.
With 1 in 5 people using dating sites in the UK  and 50 million people using Tinder worldwide , dating apps are impossible to avoid. Whether your experiences have been good, bad, or non-existent, you should be as careful when using these websites as you would be when meeting people offline. While all dating can cause pain, dating sites pose different kinds of danger such as scams. Personally, I think it is possible to find long-lasting relationships on dating sites; however, it is rare to do so as most people tend to use these sites for casual hookups.