Online dating: why there has to be another way

by 15 Mar 2019

The world has gone crazy for online dating. In 2011 there were 360 million of us online looking for love (and anything else for that matter). This increased to more than 500 million in 2016, with 672 million single people expected to be online by the year 2019. Closer to home, seven million of us Brits are now online dating, with 27% of new relationships now starting via a dating website or a mobile dating app.

As an industry it is fast growing too. A plethora of dating apps have contributed to a market now worth more than $2 billion (£1.5bn). In addition to these apps, there is also a growing market for dating coaches and the traditional matchmaking services.

So, things are looking pretty good for the online dating industry, right? In some respects, yes; in others, not much. Safety is an increasing concern as demonstrated by the six-fold increase in online date related rape from 2009 to 2014 and an increase in ‘romance scams’. From my point of view, there is also too much of our personal information out in the public space, with many popular dating apps displaying things like a user’s mutual Facebook friends, their company and job title, and one or two even displaying a person’s surname.

Many of us are also becoming resigned about a movement which seemed to offer so much hope and excitement when it first went mainstream. One of the reasons for this is the introduction of certain functions by modern dating apps, enabling us to build an online persona which ultimately won’t live up to expectations (and vice versa). For me this quote in an article on the BBC website last year sums up perfectly why online dating, in its current form, doesn’t work:

“You create this perfect profile, using your best photographs and most creative lines of text, to create this persona, and you start to believe this persona that you’ve created. Everyone else on the app is doing exactly the same thing.

“You spend a few weeks sending lines of text to each other, and you eventually arrange to meet. At the meeting, it’s instantly recognisable that neither of you can live up to the expectations and you part company.

“If there’s no chemistry, there’s no chemistry. The fallout is the trip home, where you feel crushed and defeated and you know you’re going back to square one to start the whole process again.”

It’s not surprising to see that six out of 10 people think their date has seriously misrepresented themselves in their online profile. And, as the quote says, no dating algorithm, profile or text discussion before a meeting will ever replicate the one key ingredient for a successful date – chemistry

For many people it seems, the apps have also become a pleasant distraction from everyday life. A recent poll in the US found that a whopping 44% of young people were on Tinder for confidence-boosting procrastination, which undoubtedly has been accelerated by the gamification element of swiping left and right to see who matches with us. The result is a list of matches we can show off to our friends. If I’m honest, I was once guilty of this too, but I knew at the time that, ultimately, it wasn’t fulfilling. I would have much prefered to connect with people in real life than through an app.

My three years of experience of online dating has brought both highs and lows. I count myself as fortunate to no longer be using dating apps after meeting my girlfriend, but for many people this isn’t an option yet. It is the excitement of being matched with someone incredible and life-changing which has had 500 million of us give it a go. This trend is unlikely to last though – not unless there is a shift in how we support people more effectively in their online dating journeys.

I don’t want to see things continue the way they are, and so I am really excited to be a part of the ‘Real Social Tech’ movement. One of the things I’ve noticed during my time online dating is how important intimacy is to people. I don’t mean sex, but rather a true connection between two human beings, regardless of where it leads.

If any of what I have said resonates, then please help us to realise our vision by supporting the cause today.

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