Some sites go so far as to remove faces from the equation altogether. 8 million daily users, frequently offers up a roll call of headless torsos. Your next date could be 10 feet away, standing in the next line at the grocery store, or 50 feet away in the shop (or hotel) around the corner, and you’d never recognize them. On the one hand, experts say, such sites encourage singles to take care of themselves physically. On the other, they subject users to more of an objectifying experience than a romantic one. “There’s a fine line between what constitutes flirting and quickly finding a short-term sexual partner,” Hall says.
Mobile dating revenue is expected to nearly double over the next several years, although it still makes up just 26% of total (online and offline) dating industry. Mobile dating on Match’s and OkCupid’s apps account for over half of all users. In the meantime, some sites realize that there’s fatigue among members. The app does away with most of the complex matchmaking by encouraging people to trust in serendipity and take a chance on a first date.
Many online daters are voyeurs and just “pick and click” – that is, browse and chat. The endless supply of fresh faces, and the modern worker’s lack of leisure time, combine to make it difficult for people to ever actually go out on a date, says Hall, of the University of Kansas. Spending a lot of time to meet Mr. or Ms. Right “decreases your chance of ever doing so,” he says. Answering questions and looking at prospects for hour upon hour, he adds, “is not conducive to forming a good match, and it’s not exactly a productive use of your time.”
Other studies point out their success rates: Around one-third of American marriages now begin online. And those marriages are less likely to break down and are associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction rates than those of couples who met offline, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Of couples who got together online, 5.9% broke up, versus 7.6% of those who met offline, the study found.
Users, meanwhile, typically stick to a site for three months before moving on, says Brooks, the dating-industry analyst. But then roughly one-fifth of members on the big sites return within 18 months, he says. (Whether returning clients’ first effort failed or they’ve recommitted to the search is unclear.)
Last year, Andrew Sink, 26, moved to Richmond, Va. from Sarasota, Fla. and wanted to meet friends to show him around. He also wanted to test out his robotic invention – a mechanical finger that held a conductive pen. He called it the “Tinder-O-Matic,” which “likes” a new profile every 4 seconds, or 900 likes an hour. In 12 hours, it will “like” over 10,000 profiles. Around 550 girls liked him back. He received about 70 messages from girls within a 100-mile radius, but he only replied to one girl who worked in engineering. But, he says, he was 100% upfront to the women who “liked” him back.
Nonetheless, on-the-go dating seems to be a hit
Compared with the general population, baby boomers are more likely to be single, divorced or widowed, studies show. One in three read single baby boomers has never even been survey by Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research in Ohio. And while the overall divorce rate in the U.S. has declined slightly in recent years, the so-called gray divorce rate has risen sharply – from just one in 10 people over the age of 50 in 1990, to around one in four in 2009 – according to research by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University.
On the plus side, people who lie online tend be people-pleasers and very self-aware, says Jeffrey A. Hall, associate professor of communications at the University of Kansas. His estimate? “Closer to 80%, but not all lies are created equal when it comes to consequences.” If a person takes a year or two off his age and 10 pounds off his weight, he says, most people wouldn’t even notice.
Most people looking for love probably lie about something, he says
Once upon a time, the most common online dating sin was featuring a photo of your younger self. But tech-savvy daters have long since discovered the power of Photoshop, and plenty of apps (such as Instagram) and software (such as Portrait Professional) now make retouching a snap even for Luddites. The trouble with modifying your image, of course, is that “your date is not going to have an Instagram filter over his glasses, and that’s going to cause problems,” Webb says.
If scrolling (past) photos on Tinder and Grindr wasn’t brutal enough, BeautifulPeople from time-to-time hosts a series of social events across the U.S. for members and, in keeping with the site’s virtual door policy, installs “door judges” to make sure everyone who gets in is attractive. “It can be hard turning hopefuls away,” says Hodge, the site’s managing director, “but it’s the nature of the beast.” Indeed, experts say this is exactly what most online daters do every time they log on, without a second thought.