During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people remained in their homes, trying to prevent the spread of the virus. However, this didn’t stop people from searching for romance. While many were stuck inside their homes, activity on dating sites and apps soared. Many who previously never considered online dating decided to give it a try.
A dating site or app is a website or mobile app made for people who are searching for a romantic partner. It generally requires a user to make a profile that includes a photograph and some information about their interests, likes and dislikes, like any other social media profile. They then browse other profiles and, depending on the format of the site, connect with someone they might be interested in dating.
Of course, online dating isn’t a guaranteed way to secure a date. Just like in real life, both sides must be willing and eager to go on a date and there’s no way to force it. Online dating can be a useful tool to meet new people, but before making an account, everyone should conduct their own research.
Popular Online Dating Sites
People have been trying to automate romance since 1956 when students at Stanford University developed a system that allowed a primitive computer to match single students based on answers to a questionnaire. Online dating sites were created not long after the creation of the internet itself, and they started to gain a reputation as a legitimate dating method in the early 2000s.
There are hundreds of online dating sites to choose from and it’s important to conduct research to determine which site or app will best suit someone’s preferences. Some of the most popular sites and apps include:
• Tinder: A popular and versatile app. While it’s often used for hookups, the company maintains that users can use it to make more lasting connections. It’s free and simple to use, but less reliable for forming a lasting relationship.
• OkCupid: OkCupid is a reputable free dating app. It has a similar format to Tinder, but it is seen less as a hookup app.
• Hinge: Hinge tries to make dating profiles more engaging and more in-depth. It’s grown in popularity in recent years and tries to focus as much on personality as on the photographs.
The Disadvantages of Online Dating
One common criticism of online dating is that dating profiles don’t offer a real window into someone’s personality. The online nature of dating sites also allows users to interact only after they carefully curate their profile and edit all of their messages. This, the fact that most dating sites heavily focus on profile pictures, leads users to make assumptions about the other party. For example, users will sometimes develop unrealistic expectations for other users based on a profile picture. Even a well-developed dating profile can’t capture a three-dimensional personality, and the nature of dating sites can feel shallow compared to real-life interactions.
Unfortunately, the relative anonymity of the internet will attract people who will abuse dating sites. Bad-faith users are known to harass good-faith users by sending unwanted and inappropriate messages. It only takes a few trolls to dampen an otherwise good experience on a dating site.
The Advantages of Online Dating
With that said, there are still plenty of good reasons to try online dating. Most users simply view dating sites as a jumping-off point. Most couples transition their relationship off the site and meet in person in order to get to know each other as people. It’s up to the user to put in time and effort to get to know someone personally before accepting or rejecting them.
One of the biggest appeals of online dating is that it simplifies the dating process and allows users to present clear expectations. Presumably, all users on a dating site have the same goal. When they meet online and agree to meet, both parties can go forward with the assurance that both sides find each other attractive and want to get to know each other. There’s less of the social confusion and guesswork that sometimes interferes with dating.
A dating site can also help users search for romantic partners outside of their immediate social sphere. A site can connect people who wouldn’t normally meet and help expand a dating pool for someone who feels like their options are limited.
During the advent of, say, a global pandemic, online dating may be the safest and most convenient way to find a romantic partner.
Online Dating Safety Strategies
Every dating situation presents risk. Most of the time, the risk is simply the sting of rejection. However, there are always those who will use dating as a way to manipulate others. Online dating is no more dangerous than traditional dating and in some ways, online dating offers some safety. Users can chat with other users online before meeting in person and can easily terminate communication if they notice worrying behavior. On the other hand, bad-faith users can use dating sites to find victims to rob or assault. This behavior is rare, but it’s good to be aware of how to safely handle online dating.
Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind when trying to date online:
• Quickly block and report users who send unwanted images, threatening messages or otherwise harassing content.
• Don’t connect with profiles with little or no information on the account.
• Be extremely cautious about sending personal information, such as an address or bank information.
• When first meeting in person, do so in a public place and arrange for your own transportation.
• Never respond to requests for financial help.
The Future of Online Dating
Popular dating sites and apps saw a spike in activity during the COVID-19 pandemic and online dating is here to stay. Stay-at-home orders inspired some who never considered making an account on one of these sites before and the convenience of dating sites won some of them over. Of course, making a profile on a dating site is not a prerequisite for romance. People will continue to meet their romantic partners through work, school and social events, but online dating is more prevalent than ever before.