Making Sense of Online Dating in 2020

A new study surveys the modern landscape of online dating.

Posted Mar 03, 2020

antoniodiaz/Shutterstock
Source: antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

It's difficult to imagine a world without websites such as Match.com, eHarmony, and Tinder. But it was only a few decades ago that online dating didn't exist.

How has online dating evolved over the course of its short lifespan? A new study conducted by the Pew Research Center surveyed American adults for insights. Below are six takeaways from their impressive research effort.

Takeaway #1: 31% of U.S. adults have used an online dating website or app.

The fact that over three in ten Americans have engaged in online dating speaks to its ubiquity in modern life. Among people who have used online dating sites, 18% are currently active on at least one platform.

Takeaway #2: More people think online dating has had a negative impact on dating and relationships than a positive impact.

To be specific, 26% of individuals surveyed believe that online dating has had a negative impact on dating and relationships while 22% believe it has had a positive impact. (The remaining 52% chose not to answer or indicated that it has had neither a positive or a negative impact.)

The most commonly cited positives were:

  1. Online dating helps people meet others outside of their regular network.
  2. Online dating presents an opportunity to evaluate people before meeting them.
  3. Online dating makes it easier to meet people.

And, the most commonly cited negatives were:

  1. People misrepresent themselves and/or scam people.
  2. There's a lack of personal and emotional connection.

Takeaway #3: People believe online relationships are less successful than relationships that begin in person.

The discrepancy here is large. Only 5% of people view relationships that start online as more successful while 38% view them as less successful. (The remaining 57% view them as equally as successful, or didn't provide an answer.)

Takeaway #4: 46% of Americans view online dating sites and apps as unsafe. 

Among people who use or have used online dating sites, the three most common problems are:

  1. People lying and misrepresenting themselves.
  2. People setting up spam accounts or engaging in other illicit behavior.
  3. Receiving uninvited sexually explicit messages and images.

Takeaway #5: Photos, not surprisingly, are the most important aspect of an online dating profile.

But they aren't the only thing that matters. Rounding out the top five important aspects of a dating profile are: (2) the types of relationships people are looking for, (3) whether or not an individual has kids, (4) hobbies and interests, and (5) religious beliefs.

Takeaway #6: 39% of people who have used online dating sites entered into a committed relationship or marriage.

Moreover, 77% have gone a date with someone they met on an online dating site and 63% indicated that they came across someone who they knew offline.

Conclusion: Online dating has key downsides. Only 14% of users indicate having a very positive experience with online dating and only 32% found that the sites made them feel more confident. Furthermore, among people who had used online dating sites in the past year, more were made to feel frustrated (45%) than hopeful (28%). Yet online dating sites still serve a valuable function in society.

References

Pew Research Center, Feb. 6, 2020, “The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating”