Dating apps aren’t exactly synonymous with marriage and children, but according to a surprising new study out of Switzerland, perhaps that perception will soon change.
Despite the overwhelming cultural implication that modern dating apps like Tinder are only used for casual dating practices, researchers from the University of Geneva report couples who met on a dating app are usually more likely to end up living together than couples who met in a “non-digital environment.”
Moreover, surveyed women who met their significant other on a dating app showed stronger desires and intentions to start a family and have children than those who met their partner offline.
Dating app couples also indicated that they were just as satisfied with their relationship as offline couples.
Finally, the study authors point out another often overlooked benefit of dating apps; they allow people from various educational and geographic backgrounds to meet each other. Two people living 25 miles away from each other or attending a different school would never have an opportunity to meet if it weren’t for such apps.
There’s a whole lot to unpack about these findings. Point blank, they dispute every preconceived notion and stereotype about dating apps out there today.
To be clear, we’re not talking about all online dating platforms or services here, this study focuses specifically on dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Grindr. These applications separate themselves from the pack with a swiping system that encourages users to quickly make a decision on potential dates based solely on a few pictures and maybe a sentence or two of additional information.
Many say these apps emphasize and promote promiscuity and a lack of intimacy or real romance in modern dating, and in many ways, it’s hard to argue with that theory. On the surface, dating apps appear to be yet another force driving the ever-shrinking average attention span and society’s need for instant gratification.
This research, however, shines an entirely different light on dating apps. Perhaps these apps aren’t causing any of those broader societal and cultural changes; they’re just a product of the times.
“The Internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” says Gina Potarca, a researcher at the Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics in UNIGE’s Faculty of Social Sciences, in a release. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.”
Additionally, there’s no denying it’s never been harder to meet new people. Even before the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut the door on making new connections in person, the past decade or so had seen countless people bemoan their inability to connect with strangers in person.
Blame it on the rise of the internet, or the social media boom, but it’s indisputable that most people nowadays are more comfortable meeting online before seeing each other in person. Dating apps are the easiest way to do that, regardless of whether you’re looking for a life partner or just a date for Saturday night.
“Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case,” Dr. Potarca continues.
A 2018 survey of Swiss residents were used for this research, including responses from 3,235 adults (18+) who were in a relationship and had met their partner within the past 10 years. At the time, respondents had answered questions covering their desire/plans to start a family, their overall relationship satisfaction, and individual wellbeing.
Right off the bat researchers noticed that younger adults almost exclusively only used dating apps and not more complicated dating websites that require users to fill out extensive personality and interest questionnaires. Conversely, older adults and divorcees tend to use these dating websites much more often.
“By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use. This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population,” Dr. Potarca explains.
It was also quite fascinating to the research team that couples who met on dating apps were more interested and open to the idea of living together.
“The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term, but given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage. It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40%,” Dr. Potarca notes.
The last finding of merit was that dating apps are helping people from different backgrounds and locations connect. For whatever reason, researchers say this is particularly prevalent between high-educated women and lower educated men.
“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” Dr. Potarca concludes.
For many, meeting someone on a dating app is a fact to be hidden and guarded at all costs. These findings prove that meeting one’s life partner or significant other on a dating app is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it appears to be quite normal and will likely become more and more commonplace as the years go on.
The full study can be found here, published in PLOS ONE.
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