Thanks to the prevalence of apps like Tinder and Grindr, online dating is now fairly mainstream. But do all these apps make people less likely to settle down or get married?
On how common dating app use is, and who's using them
Michael Rosenfeld: "The apps are really common — Bumble is one of them, Tinder is probably the biggest one. When I talk to people who are single who are dating, one of the things they say is that, 'You have to use the apps, because everybody else is on them.' So I think, for people who are looking for partners, the internet and the cellphone have displaced a lot of the old ways people used to meet. The old ways were kind of ad hoc, and happenstance. You meet somebody at the bar, or your mom maybe knew somebody who had a kid who was your age, and it was her idea that the two of you would be perfect together, even though usually she didn't really know that other person.
"The internet and the phone apps give people more control. There's more potential partners online than there are at the local bar, because if you crawl over to the local bar right now, there's only five other people there."
Whitney Wolfe: "When I first got started in this whole world of online connecting, we were combating this antiquated stereotype of who used online dating, and we really set out to make it popular with millennials. What I find to be so fascinating now is, I'm seeing an inverse in that trend. So while, for better or for worse, most everybody has tried an online dating app at this point, I think they would tell you, in the 18- to 35-year-old age range. And now what I'm seeing is a new wave of kind of second-round daters joining. People in my mother's group of friends, a lot of women that have gone through divorces, or are ready for something new. So I truly believe that what we're seeing with online dating is very similar to what happened with the Myspace-Facebook era, where Myspace was once this place for online connecting for a very select group of young people. And then Facebook kind of hit at this moment where it was acceptable for everybody to do it. So, it's a universal desire to find connections and relationships, and what better way to do that than from the palm of your hand?"
"The internet and the phone apps give people more control. There's more potential partners online than there are at the local bar."Michael Rosenfeld
On the benefits of using a dating app
MR: "One of the things that we know is that the apps have a reputation of promoting hookups. But if you actually look at the data — and I do long-term, longitudinal, nationally representative studies with people — I find that people who meet online are not more likely to break up. Couples who meet online aren't more likely to be hookups. In fact, couples who met through internet dating actually transitioned to marriage faster, because there are advantages in knowing more about the person before you meet them. And if you're looking for something specific — let's say, you're looking for a partner who has to be a vegan and loves to do mountain climbing — you can find that person online, but you're not gonna find that person very easily in real life, because that person could walk right by you and you wouldn't know.
"To a certain extent, dating is about information gathering, and the internet and the phone apps facilitate that, to a certain degree."
On disadvantages of internet dating
MR: "I haven't found any. The popular literature tends to view the internet dating, the phone apps, very skeptically. And I think that a lot of that skepticism is unwarranted. I think any new technology that's popular with young people is gonna be viewed skeptically by the 'old people,' and I put myself comfortably in the 'old people' category. The truth is that there's plenty of anecdotes about how internet dating makes people unhappy, but the data don't support those anecdotes."
On online dating allowing users to go on lots of first dates
WW: "The beauty of Bumble, and this world of online connecting, is it gives you access. Going down to the bar, what is your access? What is the access you're gaining there? Really, only a few people. And you're in a bar, so you've almost set yourself up for failure from the get-go, because you're surrounding yourself around something that is otherwise perceived as, you know, not the most positive thing to do. Sure, it's social, but it might not be the most uplifting, right? So if you're looking for that adventuring, outdoor vegan, you're probably not going to find them in the bar. So I would say this access to lots of first dates, or lots of meetups, is actually a really great thing, because it means there's a desire to be social, there's a desire to meet people. Yet the access beforehand was quite limited."
"It's a universal desire to find connections and relationships, and what better way to do that than from the palm of your hand?"Whitney Wolfe
On why more people than ever are single
MR: "I think there's a couple reasons: The age at first marriage in the United States has been climbing since 1960 or so, and I think the reason the age at first marriage has been climbing — people are postponing marriage — is that, people can afford to be single. It used to be that if you were a woman, you had to have the support of either a husband or a father to put food on the table. You weren't gonna make it in this world on your own. But that's not true anymore. People make it in this world on their own, women can support themselves, they don't need to get married, and we're living longer. So there's less hurry to settle down, and I think the less hurry is good in a lot of ways, because a lot of the marriages that people formed when they were too young to know themselves, those marriages didn't last.
"I've interviewed some people who I considered to be sort of refugees from the land of committed relationships. In other words, they spent 10 years living with one or two partners, and they found how hard that could be, and they just don't wanna settle down. And the truth is, you don't have to now. So, we have more options, and having more options of course also makes it difficult to find somebody else who shares your view of relationships and commitment, so that's a challenge in the modern dating world. But more options, in my view, are almost always good."
WW: "I would love to agree with that, and to further that with one other point that, I have seen that people are now more willing to leave something that is not good for them. When you feel that you don't have choice, or you don't have any options outside what you're already in, it's very hard to take the leap out of that. I do think this access that I have been talking about has granted people hope, because there is more, there are other options. Beforehand — and I remember from my college days — girlfriends of mine would have boyfriends where they didn't feel like it was right, but they said, 'But I don't wanna start going out every night, I don't wanna have to go to the bar every night and meet somebody.' Those days are no longer. You can still live your life on your own terms, and have access to meeting people, and I do think that that is a positive, absolutely."
This article was originally published on May 15, 2017.
This segment aired on May 15, 2017.