Is online dating dying?
Online dating is an integral part of contemporary culture — sitcoms refer to it to grab laughs, and commercials for online dating sites populate the airwaves. Some recent studies, however, indicate that singles are frustrated with online dating and looking for alternatives.
“A lot of people find online dating intriguing but not very satisfying,” says Leslie Baker, a licensed marriage and family therapist and an area chair for the master’s in counseling degree program at University of Phoenix.
Many of Baker’s clients report that they currently use online dating sites but are disappointed with the results. One problem, according to Baker, is that sites don’t screen member profiles.
“My clients like the opportunity to look at profiles of people they wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet, but they have to sift through a lot of questionable ones to find anything, and then those people often do not respond,” she says. “There also seems to be a problem with people posting false information and fake photos on dating sites.”
The very reason people are initially attracted to online dating sites can also be what ultimately drives them away, Baker says. “I treat clients with social phobias and social anxiety disorders, and many people with these disorders thrive on online relationships because they take off the pressure of actually having to meet others face to face,” she says.
The relative safety and anonymity of online dating can be both a good and a bad thing. “In some ways, online dating and social media can connect people, but it can also facilitate shallow relationships or virtual relationships where people never actually meet,” Baker says. The shallowness contributes, she believes, to the level of dissatisfaction many people eventually develop with online dating.
These are some of the potential pitfalls to online dating, but is it really dying out? Not entirely, according to Baker. “I think people are just searching for better results, and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of niche dating sites cropping up,” she says.
Singles should also explore other dating options, Baker recommends. “I frequently suggest that my clients consider using in-person dating services that offer a way for people to mingle safely with other singles in a public place,” Baker says. “One of my favorites is Table for Six, which sets up dinners with three single men and three single women, coordinated through a hostess. I also suggest It’s Just Lunch, a service that sets up weekday lunches between working professionals.”
These types of services offer the potential variety of online dating while also encouraging real-world interaction. “You really don’t know someone,” Baker says, “until you’ve met that person face to face.”