If Cupid’s bow is known for being erroneous, then why can’t one take matters into one’s own hands and control one’s own dating life? In fact, that is exactly what many are trying to do through online dating websites.
According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, online dating’s approval rating has increased 15 percent since 2005. This change in attitude can be partially attributed to the prevalence of dating websites in our media.
We’ve all seen the commercials: the dancing duo laughing silently as a voice-over promises that you, too, can find happiness, provided you sign up for the advertised dating website. However, these cameos often leave one wondering about the success of the sites.
This doubt has spawned a negative stigma. By making an online profile, a person can earn a reputation as “desperate.” Twenty-nine percent of the members of the Pew study originally deemed it so, and that number only decreased to about 21 percent with the study’s recent update.
But is that really our societal definition of “desperate”? What if you live in a foreign city and only know a few dreadful co-workers with whom you have no connection? What if you have had countless dates fall through? Is it truly that terrible to use the Internet to seek out others with similar interests?
With the rise of technology and the Internet’s expanded capacity, communication has become easier than ever, making it possible to find a long-lost childhood friend, for example, in minutes on social media websites such as Facebook. It seems only natural that sites geared toward finding relationships would follow.
And yes, as the more notorious parts of the Internet involving sexual subjects have increased, it does seem logical that sites encouraging casual hookups would also increase. Whether we care to admit it or not, the Internet functions as a reflection of our society.
Despite the increase of digital courtship, still only one in ten people will actually admit to their participation in online dating. Some people attribute this to embarrassment, wishing they had a “cute story” of how they met their partner. As a result, they sometimes create a façade.
But why is seeming “cute” a valid pressure? There is no need to craft the tale of how you met your boyfriend after he saved you from an arduous death by an anaconda while you were exploring the Amazon, when, in actuality, he really only digitally saved you from a night alone.
Dating websites help comb through personality traits and interests and help rank priorities. Then, they can match you with people who reported similar interests and priorities. Contacting these people is still up to you; you are not under any obligation to respond to any inquiries, and you can review profiles to learn more about potential dates. Users of dating sites still must take a few actions – online dating is not entirely free of agency.
The sites can introduce you to people you may not normally have had the chance to meet in everyday life. They save you the trouble of wandering around your city, hoping to blindly meet someone who enjoys disc golf or hiking as much as you do. One of those digital dates could end up a friend or something more, depending on what level of relationship you seek.
However, dating and love are never simple, meaning that online-based relationships also have their faults.
Users of online dating sites should exercise caution. As implied in the negative stigma, there is a level of superficiality that can define the sites. Your profile is whatever you choose to reveal or post, meaning that you can intentionally or unintentionally lead on those who choose to contact you. This can stem from many sources: a profile picture taken ten years ago after you had completed a marathon or simply a lack of insight into your own interests.
It is important to remember the value of honesty when dealing with the Internet, as many can use the computer screen as a smoke screen to show how they wish they were.
All things considered, though, I think that these sites can genuinely work if taken seriously.
Julia Pilkington ’17 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Santa Barbara, Calif. She majors in English and theater.
Image by Emma Johnson