Online dating fascinates me. From my remote position, I’ve observed countless people explore the realms of Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid and Match.com. I have seen numerous individuals find their life partners online. In contrast, I have also heard many horror stories: everything from unsolicited performance masturbation on a first date to being screamed at in a restaurant.
Overall, I think online dating is an awesome innovation that is undoubtedly benefiting millions of users, but I’m not without concerns. Beyond the obvious problems—like the enormous amount of time spent on correspondence and awkward coffee dates, and the somewhat likely risk of being cat-fished—there are other risks present that are shifting the culture at large.
One of my main concerns stems from the obviously superficial nature of some of these mediums. I can appreciate the importance of physical attraction, but apps that permit people to impulsively swipe right for a pretty face aren’t exactly promoting deep compatibility—which, fair enough, might not be the point. That said, I suspect similar principles are also at play on more serious dating sites, where people may arbitrarily rule out a potential match due to a poorly constructed profile.
Online dating also instills a false sense of control. We cultivate a profile highlighting our best attributes and selectively prescreen potential candidates before engaging them. The ability to vet people makes us feel somewhat reassured, but we are only magnifying the potential for disappointment. For example, if you meet someone in real life, at least you’ll have an accurate sense of what they look like—which cannot be said for all profile pictures.
There’s also the risk associated with the glut of riches. It’s hard enough for most people to feel confident that they are making the right choice when it comes to commitment. How much harder does that question become when there is an infinite abundance of candidates lined up and ready to be dated? Scientific studies have shown that the more options we have, the less satisfied we are with our choices. So, not only are we less likely to select a singular option, but when/if we do, we’re also more likely to question our decision. I think this is made worse by the ease in which you can start and stop connections. Sure, there are advantages to being able to treat dating like a casual, low-stakes audition. But this casual attitude also leads to casual dismissals.
This is another big issue: the casual rejection and/or disregard of people. When something is easy to come by, we don’t value it as much. This is not helped by the way we approach contact. It would appear that some take the “cast a wide net” approach, sending hundreds of messages and hoping for one or two responses. Some of these messages may be thoughtful and engaging, but the majority are a copied and pasted “hey” or more direct solicitations, such as “dtf?” and “into anal?” This is not only disrespectful, but it also interrupts meaningful communication from taking place, as it becomes easy to be dismissive of the feelings of the people who invest real time into their messages.
Overall, I think online dating is great, but consideration of the issues above has the potential to make it even greater.V
Tami-lee Duncan is a Registered Psychologist in Edmonton, specializing in sexual health. Please note that the information and advice given above is not a substitute for therapeutic treatment with a licensed professional. For information or to submit a question, please contact email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @SexOlogyYEG.