A new trend of online dating has taken off in the UK. People have stopped chatting each other up in cafes in bars and switched to “swiping right”… How and when did romance go online?
How did online dating start?
In 1995, Gary Kreman founded Match.com. This was the first online dating service, and is still successful today. The start of the 21st Century has seen a great rise in online dating services. In 2000 eHarmony was founded, closely followed by Ashley Madison in 2002. By 2012, a new wave of online dating was founded – Tinder. A type of online dating that was mobile and attracted younger customers
The growth financially for companies has been huge. The match group released data which shows that their revenue increased by £132,163.00 from 2014 to 2015.
However, media attention from TV Shows such as ‘Catfish’ and hacking scandals such as ‘The Ashley Madison Hack’ has enabled a public that is still weary about meeting their true love online.
How many people use online-dating?
According to a study from Bournemouth University, 1 in 5 relationships now start online. The American Internet company ‘Match Inc’ is an umbrella company that owns several of the biggest dating services such as ‘Tinder’, ‘Match.com’, ‘OKCupid‘ and ‘Plenty of Fish‘. Collectively, the user statistics for each service adds up to millions, and even the billions.
What’s the cost?
Many dating services are free with optional in-app purchases. However, sites such as ‘Match.com’ entice their consumers through a ‘free-trial’ before a subscription. I spoke to Derek Walters, a former user of ‘Match.com’:
“I subscribed to match.com for three-months after unlocking a free-trial which seemed to generate a lot of interest from other users on my account. I feel robbed. Match.com advertised to meet someone but there is always a charge on top of my £19.99 monthly fee. I don’t believe the messages you get are from real people, I think they’re from fake accounts used to keep your subscription active and so you spend more.”
Furthermore, the ‘costs’ of using a dating service can be extreme. In July 2015, the extramarital dating service ‘Ashley Madison‘ was hacked by an anonymous group that called itself ‘The Impact Team’. The hacktivist group released the data of Ashley Madison’s users including email-address, post-codes, phone-numbers, credit-card numbers and names. Users involved military members, celebrities and politicians. The hack resulted in a lot of divorces, mental breakdowns and in some cases, suicide.
How safe is online dating?
It may be questioned if the internet as a whole can ever be safe – nevertheless, the Online Dating Association is a self-regulatory board which companies, that provide a online dating service, have signed up to. This protects both companies and their users from the risks that online dating services can bring. I spoke to a representative from the Online Dating Association who stated:
“We have a Code of Practice which companies must follow. It covers data protection, privacy, marketing and includes sanctions… There will always be a risk when using any online service which a user inputs their details into.”
Advantages and Disadvantages
Why is finding love online so popular? According to a Online Dating Association representative the advantage is simply ‘accessibility’:
“There is an ease to online dating and in particular mobile dating which is growing rapidly. Anytime, anywhere, somebody can open an app and spend ten minutes finding somebody compatible to what they are looking for. We are in an age where people are busier than ever… to meet somebody on your terms is easier than ever”.
She indicated that work, friends and a never-ending list of ‘to-do’ jobs are effecting how much time we make to ‘look for love’. But, online love isn’t without it’s disadvantages:
“Although we ensure the companies we regulate follow the Code of Practice to the letter, there are two major issues that still need addressing for online dating: fraud and underage users. But, with every opportunity comes a challenge.
Sam Evans, an active Tinder user told me how he thinks online dating services are changing the way we date:
“I feel like Tinder is for hook-ups more than hang-outs. It has kind of taken the romantic side of meeting somebody away and replaced it with selfie’s and cool bio’s. I downloaded the app because everybody has it, but I don’t have it for the intention of falling in love with anybody – it’s more something I go on when I’m bored or lonely… Until each dating service fully establishes itself as ‘who it is’ there will be a lot of broken hearts and playing games.”
Kev Smith, a former Tinder user said:
“I think Tinder is a great way for our generation to meet new people. It takes out the awkwardness of having to approach someone that you fancy and get straight into chatting with them.”