Mobile apps have revolutionized the way people meet in recent years. Unlike traditional dating sites, these apps do not feature in depth user profiles but are mostly based on rating photographs using a swipe review system. As dating apps escalated in popularity, so has criticism about them encouraging casual dating only, threatening the presence of long-term partners, and potentially damaging the quality of intimacy. There is not any scientific evidence, however, to confirm those claims.
Research by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, provides plenty of information about couples that met through dating apps, drawing on data from a 2018 Swiss survey. The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, indicate that app-formed couples have stronger cohabitation intentions than couples that meet at a non-digital atmosphere. Additionally, women who met their spouse through dating apps have more powerful desires and goals to have children than those who discovered their partner offline. Despite anxieties regarding a deterioration in the quality of relationships, spouses who met on dating apps express the same amount of pride in their relationship as others. Last but not least, the research shows that these programs play an important part in modifying the composition of couples by allowing for more educationally diverse and geographically remote couples.
The meteoric growth of dating apps on the internet is on its way of getting the top place where couples are formed in Switzerland, on a level with meeting via buddies. “The Internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” confirms Gina Potarca, a researcher at the Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics at UNIGE’s Faculty of Social Sciences, and recipient of an Ambizione research grant given by the Swiss National Science Foundation to study the effects of electronic methods for communicating on union creation and sorting. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.” These brand new dating apps include the smartphone apps like Tinder or even Grindr, where consumers pick partners by swiping and browsing on pictures. These apps, however, have raised anxieties: “Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case,” continues Dr Potarca.
The Geneva-based researcher chose to investigate couples’ aims to begin a family, their relationship satisfaction and respective well-being, and to assess couple makeup. Dr Potarca employed a 2018 family survey from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The study presented in this study appears at a sub-sample of 3,235 individuals within the age of 18 who were in a relationship and who had found their partner in the last decade.
Dr Potarca found that dating apps – the digital tools for Meeting partners that preceded programs – mainly attracted people over the age of 40 and / or divorcees who are searching for romance. “By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use. This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population.”
Looking for a lasting connection
Dr Potarca sought to learn whether couples who met on dating programs had different intentions to form a family. The results demonstrate that couples that formed after meeting within a dating app were more motivated by the notion of cohabiting than others. “The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term, but given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage. It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40%.” Additionally, women in couples who met through dating apps mentioned wanting and planning to have a child in the near future, more than with any other means of fulfilling.
However, what do couples that met using a dating app think about the quality of their relationship? The research shows that, irrespective of how they met, couples are both satisfied with their lives and also the quality of their relationship.
Couples with a diverse socio-educational profile
The study highlights a final aspect. Dating apps encourage a mixing of various levels of education, particularly between high-educated women and lower educated men. Partners having more diversified socio-educational profiles “may have to do with selection methods that focus mainly on the visual,” says the researcher. Since users can easily connect with partners within their immediate region (but also in other areas as they move around), the programs make it easier to meet people over 30 minutes away – leading to an increase in long-distance relationships.
“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” concludes Dr Potarca.