Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Effect Of Social Media On Online Dating

You know what’s popular on the internet? Close, internet dating! There’s a lot of people out there at the moment, just walking around like there’s nothing wrong with them. You may know one or two, they look just like normal human beings with their clothes and their skin, except these ones carry around a deep and terrible secret - they’re single. 



Of course, this is not the optimum state of being for anyone (according to my mother) so it was only a matter of time after the Internet was invented that someone decided to see if the person behind that hilarious joke about cats in that chat-room (back when chat-rooms were a thing) wanted to meet “offline” to see if they were equally lolz inducing in real life.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about internet dating going wrong. However, as more of our lives move online, many people and dating sites are using social media to make the process more secure and lessen the chances that you end up down a well, with a cross dressing serial killer telling you to cover yourself in lotion if you don’t want to get hosed. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Safety

Whilst setting up a fake social media profile is not difficult, keeping it updated with fake photos, status updates and funny animal photos over a period of years is the preserve of only the most dedicated of ‘cat fishers’. This makes a long term social media profile the closest thing we currently have to a digital passport and, as such, people have started using them to verify a potential online date.

Some newer sites and apps like Tinder, whilst revealing almost no personal information (other than the fact that everyone on it seems to have been skydiving and petted a tiger) have you connect straight through your Facebook profile, showing any mutual connections you might have, giving a layer of security missing from the more established websites.

In the past couple of years dating sites have started integrating ID verification technology such as BeehiveID into their sites. These systems search through social networks looking for patterns and histories of use that fake profiles wouldn’t have, number of likes, friends, interaction over the years etc. A user is then given something akin to a credit score, which others can use to determine how likely it is that person is real and concealing nothing more than the regular, crippling social anxieties that plague the human condition.

Choice

No good at talking to people in bars? Can’t face sending someone an email on a dating website? Often dream of turning into a pink spotted griffin and seducing a super intelligent, freestanding rhombus filled with an assortment of strawberry jams? Then welcome to the Internet! We’ve even seen online games like Minecraft become places where those with more reclusive lifestyles, or interests that sit a long way from vanilla in the ice cream counter of sexual preferences, can hang out without fear of shame or embarrassment and create relationships that would be statistically unlikely in the real world.

Acceptance

One thing that, although not really talked about, has become very apparent in recent years, is the increasing social acceptance of internet dating. It used to be the case that you’d hear, “online dating? Oh I’d never do it myself, but I heard my friend’s banker’s polo instructor met his partner online” (I move in high social circles). Nowadays, social media has not only made traditional online dating more secure, talked about and welcomed as part of everyday life, it is in the process of taking over all together. 

Apps like Tinder and Grindr are bridging the gap between online dating and social networking, whilst sites like Twitter have enabled anyone anywhere to chat, stalk, flirt and ask out celebrities worldwide. 

As the lines between on and offline become ever more blurred, the power of social media to impact on every part of our lives, including our love lives, is becoming greater and greater. Strategically liking your crushes comments and sending exactly the right emoticon may not be what we thought seduction would look like when we were growing up, but if you think about it, a bunch of flowers will fade in a few days whilst a winky face will last online forever. Unless it’s Snapchat.