Finding love online: Digital love without physical touch

Finding love online: Digital love without physical touch

Fil-Ams discuss the rise of online dating in the 21st century

In an age where technology has permeated nearly every aspect of modern life, it’s no surprise it’s made its mark in the dating game.

The first online dating website, Match.com, came onto the scene in 1995, introducing the world to a new way to meet romantic partners. Amid the stigma it first garnered, it was revolutionary, bridging the worlds of technological innovation and romance.

Fast forward to the 2010s and the introduction of Internet dating smartphone applications that make finding a partner as easy as sending a text. And in a few short years, more and more people have outsourced and entrusted their love lives to the algorithms on their phones.

The stigma attached to online dating, more or less, has considerably diminished and has only become more popular. According to a 2016 study from Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Americans use online dating as a source for searching for romantic partners.

Notably, the attitudes toward online dating have also improved. In 2005, only 44 percent of participants considered online dating to be “a good way to meet people.” In 2015, that number jumped to 59 percent.

And online dating has become more nuanced with sites specific to different kinds of people. Christianmingle.com, for example, allows Christians to find other Christians and sites like Grindr are geared for LGBTQ+ individuals.

What attracts many people to online dating is, among many factors, convenience, according to 26-year-old Raymond Chu, who moved to Los Angeles in 2013.

“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here. I was straight out of college — I went to school on the East Coast, and I found a job here,” Chu, a computer programmer, told the Asian Journal in a recent phone interview.

Chu signed up for the popular dating application Tinder where users are given a selection of different profiles of other users in their area.  If a particular user interests you, you swipe right; if not, you swipe left. Users that swipe right on each other are matches, and they may start interacting. (You can’t interact with someone without matching with them first.)

“It was pretty easy to sift through several profiles and to find someone who piques your interest,” Chu said, sharing that the experience made him uncomfortable at first.

Like most users, the young Fil-Am had his share of pedestrian interactions with girls and went on dates that didn’t go beyond the first one. After four months of intermittent presence on the app, he struck a connection with a girl also working in tech.

“That relationship lasted two years, which was longer than any relationship my friends have had who also use Tinder,” Chu shared, with a laugh. “These applications — Tinder, OkCupid, or any of them — generally, I think, have a stigma attached to them. People joke that they’re only used for short-term flings or one night stands. But I can attest that there are people there that will share relationship goals with you, whether it be a short-term thing or a long, committed relationship. There’s something for everybody.”

Chu mentioned that he’s still on Tinder, but as he’s gotten older, it’s becoming less appealing to him. But given technology and social media’s impact on our culture, he has no doubt that online dating will only continue to grow as its own industry.

“It does get old, and it does feel weird just swiping through these profiles like a game,” Chu admitted. “But I do see this as the new normal. I work in tech and I know that there are folks constantly working to make these sites and apps more sophisticated to mitigate their shortcomings. It’s only just the beginning, and I see this — online dating — becoming the standard.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Maureen Rosa acknowledges the ease of online dating and the potential benefits, but also knows of the dangers. Rosa, an office administrator in the LA public health space, signed up for Tinder, OkCupid and Bumble, the latter, a dating site in which women are to message first.

The young Fil-Am saw “moderate success” but generally prefers meeting people in more traditional ways, adding that she feels that dating sites — especially those more geared towards millennials — aren’t great if looking for serious, committed relationships.

But Rosa doesn’t blame the sites themselves for what can go wrong within each interaction. But to her, dating apps can be a vehicle in which to spread vitriol and can make the dangers of dating, in general, more streamlined.

“On paper, the concept is great,” Rosa said. “But it definitely has a lot of drawbacks and I hate to say it, but it’s hurt my feelings a lot. Some people use it as a game that they do with their friends and they message girls with these mean or really inappropriate, asinine things. Some people don’t really think about the person on the other side of that message thread: that’s a person with feelings, you know? I can be dehumanizing, I think.”

After about a year and a half of trying to make a connection with someone from her phone, she retired her dating profiles in favor of meeting someone in person.

“On one hand, it can set you up with someone whom you probably would never have met [in real life] and it can be awesome. But on the other hand, the whole thing could turn into a horrible nightmare from ‘Black Mirror,’” Rosa says with a laugh, referencing the Netflix original anthology series that explores the negative effects of social media and technology.

Despite her concerns about online dating, however, she mirrored Chu’s sentiments regarding the impact of online dating has on the current zeitgeist. Rather than dismiss online dating for its shortcomings — or unduly praise it for its breakthroughs — it’s best to accept that it’s simply just another form of social media: any pros and cons lie with the humans using them.

“But that’s the risk you take, in general, with dating, digitally or otherwise,” Rosa added. “And a lot of factors are at play: age, city, which app you’re using. At the end of the day, I can only speak about my experience with dating apps, but dating, in general, is a gamble. And it can be worth it.”

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