The magnitude to which we now are contingent upon technology to provide us with things that previously we could acquire by ourselves is astounding. You can get your clothes online, you can get your groceries online, you can get your holidays online, you can get your computer online and now you can get a boyfriend online. What a time to be alive.
We can browse through hundreds of thousands of prospective companions, as one may browse packets of crisps in a store or consider variations of beers at a bar. Just as a bartender will recommend a beer based on your preferred colour, favoured body and individual taste, dating sites can recommend you a lover based on similar preferences.
Market leader, Match.com commissioned a recent study that found online is now the third most common way for couples to meet. Not only that, one in six new marriages are now the consequence of online dating sites. But why are they so popular, and who is using them?
For younger people, opportunities to meet people and socialise are rife, particularly living in a city that houses three universities and over 70,000 students. We have clubs, bars, cafes, museums, book stores, the Students Union even does speed dating (24th November, 7-9pm if you fancy it), so if you really want to put yourself out there, you have the opportunity to do so.
What about older people? When all your friends are married and their friends are married, you’re thirty years too old to get ID’d and your decision to move to rural North Wales is becoming increasingly regrettable, then what? When you’ve got a job that entertains the hours between nine and five and a dog to walk, a kid in university to pay for and a dishwasher that means you have to do your dishes by hand, then what?
Online dating is a remarkable way to get to know people you would perhaps never stumble across in your regular life, or not have the confidence to approach should your paths cross. It’s great that the stigma of online dating is retiring and that, as statistics demonstrate, sites are producing and developing successful relationships every day. To have another chance at love in later life, if for whatever reason you find yourself alone, is brilliant. Undoubtedly, the internet is not the most exotic nor glamourous way meet a partner, but if you fall in love, then the origin of the romance is absolutely irrelevant.
That said, online dating is not without fault. Apps like Tinder work predominantly if you are good looking, or desperate, whilst sites such as Match.com focus on your answers to bizarre questions like ‘which do you hate most?’ Choose between; washing up/children/Hitler/fat people/curry.
Many are criticised, Tinder in particular, for encouraging people to use the app to indulge in one night stands and casual, meaningless sex. Surely we can’t actually be blaming Tinder for young people sleeping around. Causal sex predates Tinder by decades, and when Tinder vanishes into the abyss of abandoned social medias, the sex will continue on. Perhaps the argument is that the app effortlessly enables artless sexual encounters, but you only have to visit any club on a Friday night to witness exactly the same thing, only with fewer potentials, an abundance of alcohol, and a potentially more perilous outcome.
Whether or not apps like this are an effective medium to find a partner can be contested. Although some suggest looking for a girlfriend on Tinder is similar to looking for Ralph Lauren in Primark, there are ever increasing numbers of success stories. A friend of mine attends regular dates with guys from Tinder, and although is yet to find Mr Right, she swears by it and has made countless friends and has had an abundance of nice dinners.
Tinder is, for the most part, a perhaps more shallow way to find a potential match. Generally, if you are attractive and a size eight, you’ll do ok, and everyone else just has to pick their best angle and hope for the best. That said, it’s naive to suggest this is not the case in restaurants, at parties, in nightclubs and so on. The best looking people get approached, get spotted, get a ‘right’ swipe and unfortunately such is life. Although perhaps in the real world you have more than one static pose and 40 words to sell yourself, but then again, perhaps you don’t.
Another of the upcoming dating-giants is Grindr, a variation of Tinder with a sort of gay/bisexual spin. More than any other dating site, Grindr by reputation, generates the most sexual encounters. Perhaps it is a bizarre concept, one that connects you with other people primarily for the purpose of sex. Bringing two (or three?) complete strangers together, with potentially nothing more in common than their sexuality, to make love to one another. That said, when our technology has advanced so that we can stream hours of other people having sex in HD, it seems only polite that we are then able to get some of our own.
Is this a problem? I don’t know. In one instance you could suggest that the regularity of casual and meaningless sex stemming from apps like Tinder/Grindr will eventually effect our perceptions of making love and the concept all together could become vacant. In another, I think most probably if the apps are allowing consenting, and invulnerable adults to explore and have fun, then that can’t really be such a bad thing.
I think the only genuine pity with regard to dating sites and apps is that you can quite literally chose exactly the type of person you want to be with. Call me archaic, but I think perhaps one of the best things about falling in love is that you just can’t chose who you fall in love with, and learning perhaps that there is someone for you, who wouldn’t necessarily be perfect on paper.
The beauty though maybe, within the rapidly expanding online dating industry, is that there are so many, it’s hard not to find one to suit you. If you’re good looking and are looking for someone good looking, you can be confident in Tinder for like-minded people. Like to read? The Telegraph and The Guardian have their own dating websites. There are tailored dating sites for numerous sexualities, unusual fetishes, women who want to date men in uniform, men in uniform who want someone to appreciate their uniform, and so on and so forth, and really, it’s brilliant.
Maybe only time will tell the generational impact dating sites will have, and perhaps when we are all old and divorced and marrying for the fourth time to someone we met online, we will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to have been able to meet such cool people. Perhaps statistics will increase and half or more marriages will stem from the internet, and if this means more people are finding love, then that can only be a good thing.