Online dating has been around for longer than a decade and is used by a variety of people, including university students. The popular dating site, Tinder, was founded in 2012 and has flourished in the last few years.“Tinder has some 50 million users and produces 120 million matches a day”  according to the article, dating is changing the nature of society, on MIT’s Technology Review. It is also mentioned that online dating is the second most popular way for heterosexual individuals to meet new people, and by far the most popular way for LGBTQ+ individuals to meet new people.

“Tinder has some 50 million users and produces 120 million matches a day”

Dating sites apply different algorithms to obtain a similar goal. Over the years dating sites have become more specialized, to a point where almost anyone can find a dating site suited for them. Tinder matches people if they both ‘swipe’ right on each others profile. Elite Singles focuses more on the annual income of the individual. Christian Mingle is for individuals who want to date within their religion. Her and Grindr are dating sites specially for the LGBTQ+ community. These are just some of the specialized dating sites available to the public.

An important question to ask, is whether this process of specialisation results in dating sites being more discriminative. There are very different opinions on this question, especially in a country where we have users of different cultures, religions and races to accommodate. Most leading dating sites have adapted to accommodate users equally. Tinder, for example, allows users the option to disclose the gender they identify as and then to be paired with individuals accordingly. This can be considered as a step in the right direction compared to many of the older dating sites, which do not necessarily accommodate individuals of the LGBTQ+ community. The emergence of dating sites, specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, is also an improvement.

Another interesting point, is what has led to the sudden rise in popularity of online dating sites. Mr Pierre Brouard, deputy director of the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) told PDBY, “you can’t separate the rise in dating sites from the rise in access to the internet and the presence of social media platforms and apps.” 2010 marked the start of a decade where the internet was more accessible than ever before. Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, internet access was not limited to any specific device anymore. In 2020 people can access the internet on phones, tablets and laptops. This also means that people can access any dating site, whether it is online or a dating app, on their devices. Having access to these devices 24/7 means having access to dating sites and apps 24/7. This also enables people to be active online whenever they please. Brouard also mentioned that “online dating can make us feel more in control.” This is something that appeals to many people in this decade, especially since this rise of online trolling and social media stalking. On most of these sites, individuals can choose which information they want to disclose and whether or not they want to meet their match in person.

“In the world of online dating you can swipe, click and emoji your way past anyone who doesn’t look immediately suitable.” According to Brouard this can be both positive and negative. “I think online dating has made us fussier and more picky, but it’s also allowed us to be more pragmatic, and thoughtful about what qualities and factors really make a relationship work.”

“In the world of online dating you can swipe, click and emoji your way past anyone who doesn’t look immediately suitable.

Online dating has also enabled unacquainted individuals to meet online. In the article, “The Strength of absent ties: Social integration via online dating” by Josue Ortega from University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich from University of Vienna, this occurrence is discussed. It discusses how online dating has led to an increase in interracial marriages, since it allows people to connect based on interests, proximity and personalities, rather than racial and social backgrounds. Another positive is that meeting people online is much easier and less time-consuming, also offering a wider variety of possible suitors.

In the article, “Love me Tinder: Body image and psychosocial functioning among men and women”, Jessica Strubel and Trent Petrie writes that “our results suggest that Tinder represents a contemporary medium for appearance pressures and its use is associated with a variety of negative perceptions about body and self.” Since Tinder is the type of dating site, as many others, where most users firstly interact with the images posted, it is understandable that it can lead to negative self-awareness and a decline in body positivity.

Image: Mashudu Madzhiga

CARLI BOTHA