Dating has changed a lot in the last ten years.
A recent study by Stanford University found that 39% of people now meet online, that’s up from 22% in 2009.
It’s not just the way people meet that has changed, the attitudes around meeting online have altered, too. People used to feel embarrassed to admit they met virtually, an attitude that has shifted as people in the UK live more virtually active lives.
Two people who have seen the dating landscape change through the years are 40-somethings, Emma and Darren. The pair recently took part in Yahoo UK’s new video series ‘Dating At A Distance’.
Despite the societal pressures to settle down and get married in a linear fashion, their refreshing approach to finding love could teach everybody a thing or two.
Darren, 44, admits that he finds it “harder to date” now he’s in his 40s, but that hasn’t stopped the plumber from Stockport from chatting to new people.
“Now I’m in my 40s it’s harder to date since more people are settled down around my age.
“There’s no stigma to telling people you have a date with from a dating site, I feel years ago people were embarrassed to admit to it. Almost everyone I know is on a dating app or site,” he explained to Yahoo UK.
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Emma, 41, a part-time life coach from Leeds agrees that the world of dating has shifted online, but says she preferred the video approach over the apps.
“One of the main anxieties when you’re dating online is catfishing nowadays. I’ve been caught by so many catfishes. I had a guy trying to sell me Bitcoin, I’ve had people who just want me as an Instagram follower,” Emma explains.
Catfishing is when somebody lures a person into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
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The world of virtual dating is something both of the ‘Dating At A Distance’ stars have had to get used to, unlike many teenagers and young adults today who have grown up as online natives.
“Inevitably we used to always meet through our mates. We went to college, went to work and you met through a friend or a friend.
“What was really healthy is that there was no communication between the dates unless you wanted to write a letter,” Emma shared with Yahoo UK.
Now, not only are we expected to regularly communicate with people online, we can also see if that person is online themselves, leaving people in constant anticipation for a reply.
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Despite the pressures online dating, the pair agreed on their virtual date that they’re not in a rush.
“I’m not actually in a rush. I’d rather take my time and meet somebody nice,” Darren shared with Emma.
Darren also told Yahoo UK that he thinks he’s in a better position to meet somebody now he’s a bit older, too.
“I think now I’m older I’d like to meet someone to settle down with, ideally I’d like to start a family. I don’t want to get to an age where I’m too old for a kick around with children on the park.
“I’m in a better position now I’m older and I’d like to think I’m wiser too.”
Pressure to settle down comes from families, the media and society in general. For many, a family gathering ends in questions about when they’re going to meet somebody, get married or start a family.
Emma’s advice? “Settling down is overrated.”
“I’ve been settled down. I had a 13 year relationship. I wasn’t married but it was a marriage of sorts in the fact that we were together for so long.
“A lot of people gravitate towards wanting to settle down, not because they actually want to be with another person but because they can’t deal with their own sense of loneliness.
“I’ve succumbed to that and it’s hard. It’s not the pressure of society or the media, it’s my own internal pressure to feel like I should be sharing my life with somebody.”
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Despite not always feeling that pressure herself, the 41-year-old admits that there is “an incredible amount of pressure” for her age group.
“I come from a generation where my mother and my grandmother were expected to marry straight away and they did that diligently. I felt that pressure as a young person.
“People call me Mrs or ask where my husband is. There’s an absolute solid assumption that I must be in a relationship or married.
“As a strong, independent women I’m not defined by being with a man or being married.”
Say that louder for the people at the back, Emma.
Want to give virtual dating a go? Get in touch by emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch more episodes from Yahoo UK’s ‘Dating at a Distance’