We Are Never Ever Going To Stop Online Dating

Monday, October 21, 2013 - 02:58 PM


Over at Slate, Amanda Hess speculates that dating websites like OKCupid and Tinder will die out soon.

It's a strange argument because it's pegged to a Pew study that says the opposite. More people are using online dating sites and more people have favorable opinions towards them. Hess builds her case around the idea that people still online dating's sad:

21 percent of plugged-in Americans still think that “people who use online dating sites are desperate.” (In 2005, 29 percent of them said so.) Even 13 percent of people who date online consider themselves desperate. Though online dating has become normalized, it’s still seen as a little sad. 

But can't something be seen as a little sad and still be pretty popular? Like, for instance, dating in real life? Think about singles bars, or speed dating, or "my cute friend who you will love and just have to meet." Which of those is consistently fun and never sad?  A single person who is actively trying to date will feel like a Cathy cartoon at some point. Maybe most points. 

Hess's other knock on online dating is that it unnecessarily ghettoizes the dating process. She argues that we can just as easily meet our romantic partners on non-dating-specific websites: "As online dating becomes more normal, and less desperate, we will feel less incentivized to segregate our online romantic dealings from our digital business connections and social spaces." 

I half-agree. It's true that in real life, you can meet someone at the grocery store and fall in love. But life online already reflects that. People meet on Twitter, and on Xbox Live, and improbably enough, on 4chan's /b/ board. The benefit of those places is that they can be a better filter for similarity than the clunky, algorithmic questions that most dating websites rely on. The mere fact that you and I both like 4chan says more about our similar tastes than we'll ever know from OKCupid's weird, Blade Runner-esque personality tests.

I think what Hess underestimates is that the appeal of sites like these is that they cordon off dating. Everyone knows why everyone else is there. A DM on Twitter can mean a lot of things. A message on OKCupid is a clearer indication of romantic interest than you're likely to get anywhere else in the world. The downside of meeting in the proverbial grocery aisle is that the other person might just be shopping for groceries.


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Comments [5]

Kimberly Ruiz


Oct. 24 2013 01:39 PM
Ben from Austin, TX

Online dating exists because people are afraid of approaching. Period.
As technology increases out isolation from each other, this fear of approaching will only increase,
And therefore so will online dating.

Oct. 23 2013 03:58 PM

Preston, what a great point re: privilege. I wish I'd written it. It makes me hope that online dating DOES become less popular, because maybe it will mean society has become less awful.

@Crc There's no editor here, but I'll try to do better. Thanks for bearing with me. Spelling and garmor mistakes are truly embarassing, even on a blorg.

Oct. 22 2013 10:10 AM
Preston from Minneapolis

Totally missed the point that homosexual/bisexual/transgender people use online dating because they do not have the privilege of just going up to whoever they're attracted to in the grocery aisle. Heterosexism is a huge boon for online dating. And if you ask me, Online Dating isn't popular because people know what to expect, it's popular because it serves as a bandaid for a whole list of problems in our society that nobody notices or wants to solve. If we can actually do something about those problems, we might decide we don't need the internet to find love.

Oct. 22 2013 02:33 AM

Okay piece, but someone needs to edit more thoroughly. Surely OTM writers understand the difference between 'than' and 'then', as just one example.

Oct. 21 2013 04:36 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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