By Joseph D’Andrea
The dating scene for both college students and older adults has experienced a change in regard to how relationships begin and most significantly, where they begin. The number of users taking advantage of online dating has seen a steady increase over the past five years, according to 2021 statistics from Statista Research. There were 44.2 million users of online dating services in the United States in 2020. And with the pandemic shutdowns and other forces interfering with how couples can meet, it could be said that this way of mingling is beginning to replace traditional interactions.
On the surface, this may raise questions and give off a pessimistic view on how dating has evolved, but nevertheless, online dating has its advantages. Equally important is looking at the demographics of online dating, and how it may not be as constrained to young adults as the common consensus may claim. This brings up the wide-ranging dilemma of if there is a “better” way of dating—online or through “traditional” ways—and what it means for the culture as a whole.
As almost anyone old enough to date prior to the Internet will tell you, meeting your partner requires conversational skills and putting yourself out there in public. Though this is not mutually exclusive from the modern day, dating apps such as Tinder do some of the steps for you. It’s like a public personality resume for anybody willing to seek it can make for a simpler way of jumpstarting a relationship for some.
Lawrence Josephs, a professor in the Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi, said, “The obvious pro to online dating is that it provides a way for single people to meet an almost endless supply of other single people to date when your life situation is such that there are few ways to meet single people in person to date. This is especially helpful for singles who are not comfortable meeting people in bars.”
His last point focuses on yet another advantage to the online way of dating: those who may feel self-conscious in public can use online dating as a way to quell their anxieties.
Josephs dispelled some of the previously hinted-at misconceptions about younger generations being the sole consumers of the digital-meet-cute that is online dating.
“In terms of generational differences, dating apps were first used by more middle-aged singles who couldn’t find people to date in person,” he said. “Initially, there was a prejudice against using dating apps as it was thought that only ‘losers’ who couldn’t find someone to date would use a dating app… As online dating has become more normative for all generations, the prejudice against it has diminished and this is rapidly becoming the standard way of meeting people to date if you’re not meeting anyone in person that you like.”
Though maybe not viewed as conventional to those of older generations, the authenticity of dating still remains preserved to a certain extent, even through cell phones.
But when it comes to finding a partner, the traditional encounters at school, work and other places college students hang out do still happen. In a poll conducted with Adelphi students currently in relationships, 12 of the 18 who participated stated that they met their partner in person as opposed to doing so online.
Junior Mylo Aspen met their partner their freshman year at Adelphi on the Quad “as they were having a free food tent because the UC wasn't open yet. They were brought to a tent by a mutual friend and through conversation we instantly clicked.”
When asked about whether traditional contact is a better alternative than online dating, the psychology major replied, “I personally believe traditional interaction is better than online, but that's also because my love language is touch. I prefer being able to see someone's body language and to give and get hugs and kisses to show love.”
Gabrielle Deonath ‘18 also responded to the poll and shared that she and her partner were introduced by a mutual friend on Sept. 4, 2014 outside the doors of Swirbul Library. They became friends while running a club together and stayed in touch after they both graduated, becoming a couple six years after meeting. Now they’re planning their wedding this summer.
Deonath sees benefits to both online and in-person meetings. “Online dating gives you the opportunity to connect with people that you may have never crossed paths with otherwise. After you graduate college, your circle of peers in the same age group dwindles. Even in the time of Covid, it can be hard to meet people organically in person. This is where online dating can be helpful in building new romantic connections,” she said.
But she added that the benefit of becoming friends on campus before dating gave her and her boyfriend a strong foundation.
“Relationships aren't easy. During those times when we struggle as a couple, our friendship and all the personal experiences we've shared are what keep us grounded and push us to be better partners for each other,” Deonath said. “When you meet someone online, you often start from a superficial place of physical attraction, but it often takes a lot longer to learn who someone is as a person and who they are outside of your particular relationship. You go into a relationship with high expectations based on the little you know, and it leaves a lot of room for disappointment. I'm not necessarily saying that meeting someone in person is better than online dating, but I do think being friends in the real world first sets you up for a stronger, longer-lasting connection.”
Josephs agreed there are downfalls that come with online dating–particularly that it is easy to use deception online to attract dates. “You can use pictures of yourself when you are much younger or that hide aspects of your physical appearance that you don’t want others to see. You can write things about yourself that aren’t true because you most likely don’t know anyone in common that could expose the deception,” he said. “Research has found that people who are high in narcissism and low in authenticity prefer online dating for this reason.”
Although that aspect of online dating is very much a valid criticism of the format, it can serve as a gateway for a more genuine connection.
“Despite these cons as online dating becomes more normative, more people are finding their life partners online and finding ways to work around the pitfalls,” Josephs said. “People can gradually develop an online relationship before choosing to meet in person and then can meet in person for coffee to keep it casual. Then if meeting for coffee goes well a more traditional date, like dinner and a movie, could be arranged as the couple gets to know each other in person. After that it’s just like any other in-person dating relationship.”
Though online dating does strip some of the more customary, raw experiences from in-person dating, there are shown benefits to this digital alternative to meeting a partner.