Saturday, May 17, 2014

Check in for Love: More People Going Online, Using Apps to Find Potential Mates

EDITOR'S NOTE: A final project from Spring 2014.

By Fauzeya Rahman

It's now more socially acceptable to find a potential love interest online than it was nine years ago, according to research from the Pew Research Center on online dating.

According to a 2013 survey, perceptions have changed significantly in three key areas:

  • 65 percent of everyone surveyed agree with the statement that online dating is a good way to meet people
  • 58 percent of those surveyed agree that online dating lets people find a better match by getting to know people better
  • 21 percent of people surveyed agreed that people who use online dating sites are desperate

Online relationship expert Kevin Murray sees the change in attitude toward online dating as necessary. He's with the online dating group eFlirt Expert, a company that helps people create online profiles on dating sites to better attract interested parties.

Murray and his team work with clients to modify their profiles and select the right dating sites for what they are looking for in a relationship.

“The most common service we offer is a profile makeover (eMakeover). The majority of our clients have trouble writing their ‘about me’ sections – which is typically the area of the profile that gives the most background and insight into their personalities.”

"One of the biggest misconceptions around online dating is that it’s full of 'weirdos' and it 'doesn’t work,'" he added. "Online dating is really a platform used to connect with other singles you’d normally never cross paths with. There’s 'weird' people at your gym, work and local bars – don’t make online dating the scapegoat for any dating insecurities you may have."

For social media specialist Katy Umana, meeting people online can be a convenient method when one doesn’t have time to meet people in person.

"Getting to know someone virtually can be convenient especially if you have a hectic schedule," she said. "In the past, I was working full-time, attending classes part-time and taking part in extracurricular activities like sports reporting. Being able to communicate with someone online and have conversations when you normally wouldn't be available to meet up in person made it easier to get to know someone. It also takes the pressure away from any awkwardness. I've noticed some guys are more direct online than they would be offline in a social situation."

Online dating seems to meet the needs of various age groups, with all demographics seeing an increase in online dating in recent years. 66 percent of online daters have gone out on a date with someone they met online, up from 43 percent of online daters in 2005, the last time Pew conducted a study of online dating.

As online dating and social media play a bigger role in our online (and real) lives, researching potential love interests or keeping tabs on old flames also became more common, according to Pew’s data.

For Linda Mena, researching people via social media is a given in today’s online dating landscape.

“I’ve used social media to check on a past love interest,” Mena said. “I think it's human nature to be curious about what could have been or where they are in life.”

She also added that she’s “unfriended” past love interests because sometimes it’s easier to cut all ties when a relationship has ended badly.

Online Perceptions vs. Reality

With more of our daily lives carried out online, an online profile can be an accurate reflection of a person, maybe. According to the survey, 22 percent of online daters ask someone else to review or help set up their profile. Women are twice as likely as men to ask for help.

"I did ask for suggestions on what would help me have a good profile. I had friends rate pictures I had to make sure they were consistent with how I actually looked. It's a good way of making sure you are as honest as you can be," Mena said.

Murray says balancing the two components of your identity are important.

"In online dating you really have two first impressions. The first is your profile and the second is meeting face-to-face. We have to make sure there is a happy balance of someone’s ideal self and their actual self. The ideal self is not who they truly are, but what they hope or want to be, whereas the actual self is the truth and what we ultimately want our clients to be comfortable displaying."

Friendship, Relationships On Demand

For Murray of eFlirt Expert, he sees online dating becoming an even bigger part of our lives moving forward, with interactions taking place wherever you are. Much like 'checking in' or tagging social media posts with your location, GPS proximity features now alert users who's interested and maybe in the same room as them. Apps such as Tinder use this feature, but now even the older online dating platforms have added geolocating features.

“Dating apps with a GPS proximity feature are getting very popular with the younger generation,” he said. “It encourages people to meet up quickly and not spend lots of time sending messages back and forth."

As online dating grows and as seen in the chart above, perceptions surrounding online dating will change. Now that people are more used to sharing information and posting about themselves online on Facebook or Twitter, this can eventually transition into a person being more comfortable posting about themselves on an online dating platform. See a timeline of some popular social media and dating sites below.

"I think a few generations from now online dating will be the norm (it almost is) when it comes to matching singles," Murray said. "Hopefully we’ll get past the point where it’s no longer common place to see a dating profile with a headline that says ‘let’s say we met somewhere else.’”


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