Online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new - Is this a bad thing?
Why settle for a mediocre relationship when you can grab yourself a date online in minutes and if lucky be in a relationship in a week? Plus, you get to juggle multiple dates simultaneously as you eliminate the ones that don’t fit the cut right down to 'the one'. And if 'the one' isn't good enough, you have the pleasure of doing it all over again! The pleasure of meeting fresher and hotter people! How is that a bad thing?
"A Million First Dates" is what Dan Slater, author of Love in the Time of Algorithms called an article he wrote on The Atlantic. And in the article, we get an explanation of "How online romance is threatening monogamy".
Slater gives an example of this guy, Jacob, who used to have a rough time meeting women. And whenever he met one, he would drag on the relationship - however bad it was - for too long because he’d rather be with someone than have to be out there searching for one. Until he had a taste of online dating…
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"I’m an average-looking guy. All of a sudden I was going out with one or two very pretty, ambitious women a week." And through online dating, in just 6 weeks, he met Rachael and seeing as she was pretty cool, they moved in togther. After two years they broke up. And for the first time, a break-up wasn’t a big deal. He was confident he could always meet someone else saying: "I feel like I underwent a fairly radical change thanks to online dating. I went from being someone who thought of finding someone as this monumental challenge, to being much more relaxed and confident about it. Rachel was young and beautiful, and I’d found her after signing up on a couple dating sites and dating just a few people."
The thing is: online dating made him realize that he could always meet someone new in a jiffy. He even admits this: "I’m about 95 percent certain, that if I’d met Rachel offline, and if I’d never done online dating, I would’ve married her… I would’ve overlooked everything else and done whatever it took to make things work. Did online dating change my perception of permanence? No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that. I was eager to see what else was out there."
The thing with online dating sites is: even when your account has been inactive for months, which could mean you probably met someone, you still receive email notifications telling you how hot and wonderful people have been checking out your profile and how eager they are to meet you. And to put it crudely, online dating made Jacob realize there is more where 'that' came from.
Some people believe that the "plenty of fish in the pond" mentality that online dating has come with is making people give up on their existing relationships too fast. I mean, why settle when there is better out there, right? We have filled our minds with "… the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse… in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track". Our pickiness is increasing. And according to Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who has studied online dating and its effects on relationships, "people who are in marriages that are either bad or average might be at increased risk of divorce, because of increased access to new partners."
Question is: Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing?
"On one hand, it’s good if fewer people feel like they’re stuck in relationships," says Finkel. Its only the low quality, unhappy and unsatisfying marriages and relationships that are being wrecked by the allure of online dating. "… the best marriages are probably unaffected. Happy couples won’t be hanging out on dating sites…" So I ask: How can this be a bad thing if online dating is only getting rid of bad marriages leaving the creme de la creme intact? How is it bad if online dating makes some people realize that they have a chance to meet someone they can truly be happy with?
"On the other, evidence is pretty solid that having a stable romantic partner means all kinds of health and wellness benefits." That commitment is a great thing. And knowing that one has other options turns the search for 'the one' into and endless search... people stop putting an effort into making a relationship last.
But is technology really at odds with commitment, monogamy and marriage?
Alex Mehr, a co-founder of the dating site Zoosk disagrees. "Online dating does nothing more than remove a barrier to meeting," says Mehr. "Online dating doesn’t change my taste, or how I behave on a first date, or whether I’m going to be a good partner. It only changes the process of discovery. As for whether you’re the type of person who wants to commit to a long-term monogamous relationship or the type of person who wants to play the field, online dating has nothing to do with that. That’s a personality thing."
Plus if we go with the reality on the ground, much as online dating might get you the next date easily, for those interested in finding love, this isn’t so much fun as some would put it because their goal meet “the one” and settle down … not to meet “one after the other”. And a bigger chunk of online daters are looking for this commitment that the 'Million-dates' article seems to claim online dating is killing. Plus, if anything, the “access” mentality that online dating presents is a good thing: even to marriages. Would you afford to F-up if you knew your husband/wife has got plenty of options? I think not.
The thing is: infidelity has always been there. And so has monogamy. And so long as there are people who cherish commitment, and those who take pride in having multiple partners, infidelity and monogamy will continue to exist. How you conduct yourself online and offline has to do with who you are.
In a phone interview, Tracy Clark-Flory talks to Slater about his controversial article on the Atlantic. Turns out: He doesn’t think online dating is killing marriage. He believes technology is changing the world for the better saying: "Loneliness is one of the worst things in life and I think it’s one of the biggest sources of unhappiness for people. Technology that can fight that is, per se, a good thing, and of course there’s a downside to every new technology. There’s a downside to the telephone, despite how amazing it’s been. There’s obviously a downside to the text message. But, on balance, I think it’s a good thing. You know, I wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for computer dating."
So tell us: Which side of this debate are you on and why?
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