OKCupid founder Maxwell Krohn speaks before the Harvard Humanist Community. OkCupid is one of many sites that claims to have cracked the code on online dating. (RNS photo by Dominick Reuter)
Does online dating actually work?
It’s a ordinary question and a common one — one whose response could determine the fates of both a multi-billion dollar industry and millions of lonely hearts. It’s a question that seems distinctly answerable: wij have user gegevens, surveys, clear metrics for success or failure, entire books total of colorful charts.
And yet, just this week, a fresh analysis from Michigan State University found that online dating leads to fewer committed relationships than offline dating does — that it doesn’t work, te other words. That, te the words of its own author, contradicts a pile of studies that have come before it. Te fact, this latest proclamation on the state of modern love joins a 2010 investigate that found more couples meet online than at schools, kroegen or parties. And a 2012 investigate that found dating webpagina algorithms aren’t effective. And a 2013 paper that suggested Internet access is boosting marriage rates. Plus a entire host of dubious statistics, surveys and case studies from dating giants like eHarmony and Match.com, who keuze — insist, even!! — that online dating “works.”
This much should be evident: Wij don’t actually know.
Some of the reasons for that ambiguity are clear te this latest probe. For starters, there’s this greater cultural punt of how wij define relationship success: Is it marriage? Is it monogamy, a schuiflade Patti Stanger? Is it what OkCupid’s gegevens team calls a “fourway” — four messages back and forward inbetween two semi-interested parties? That’s a rough one to parse, and different studies have defined it different ways. (This one, for the record, looked at marriages and other long-term relationships, if you’re not looking to tie the vlecht, its conclusions aren’t for you.)
Then there’s a sort of secondary punt te how wij define a site’s contemporáneo function, because despite the marketing hype, that isn’t clear. Most paid sites optie, for example, that it’s their very scientific matching algorithms that lead people to serious relationships, te his 2013 book on the subject, however, the verslaggever Dan Slater concludes that most of those claims are bunk. (“Everyone knows that all personality profiling is bull****,” a former Match executive told him. “As a marketing hook, it works good.”)
Te reality, dating sites are most effective spil a kleintje of posible town square — a place where random people whose paths wouldn’t otherwise cross bump into each other and begin talking. That’s not much different from your neighborhood brochure, except te its scale, ease of use and demographics. But ter terms of coetáneo function, the things wij think of spil uniquely “online” te online dating — the algorithms, the personality profiles, the “29 dimensions of compatibility” — don’t show up to make too much of a difference ter how the enterprise “works.”
Meantime, all this is happening during a time of enormous revolution te the way wij conceive of relationships and commitment. A record number of Americans have never bot married, and only a scant majority — 53 procent — want to be. Americans get married straks every year, if they choose to get married at all. Women habitually stay single into their 30s and 40s, a tidal shift te how they viewed commitment even one or two generations ago. And while reliable gegevens on sexual fucking partners is hard to come by, there’s some suggestion that modern singles get around more than they used to.
Surely online dating has fed this trend ter part, providing the onveranderlijk dressoir of alternative options that sociologists say plays a large part ter determining whether a relationship fails, but at the same time, apps like Tinder could never have caught on if people weren’t already approaching hook-up and dating more casually. It’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem: maybe online dating has made us more cavalier, or maybe our growing casualness fed online dating, or maybe thesis things both exist together te a miasma of hook-ups and right-swipes and shifting social standards.
“On Tinder everything’s disposable, there’s always more, you stir on quick,” one Tinder-user told the Guardian Monday, explaining how the app had single-handedly transformed hier from a serial monogamist to a hook-up artiste. And yet, by the end of the vraaggesprek, she’s off Tinder and te a relationship with a fellow she met on the app. Who truly had the agency there: the dating app, or the dater?
It’s a question that applies identically well to offline dating, too: When a relationship fails, what or who is ultimately responsible? The place where the duo met? The length of time they took getting to know each other? Or something squishier, something less precise — a cifra not captured te charts and telephone surveys?
After all, Two.1 million people get married te the U.S. every year, and half of those couples will divorce. If wij parsed their fates according to the precies venue ter which they met, or any other number of arbitrary factors, wij would most likely turn up the same zuigeling of confusing, self-contradicting results that research into online dating perennially seems to.
But those contradictions wouldn’t be blamed on the Internet — we’d credit the vagaries of the human heart. For some reason, no one’s content to see online dating that same way.