Online dating: More and more people are doing it, but no one wants to talk about it. On the record, that is.
A recent Pew study found that 11 percent of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile apps – a figure that was just 3 percent five years ago. Among Internet users who were single and looking for a partner, 38 percent had tried online dating.
Yet, according to the Pew study, 21 percent of Internet users agree with the statement: People who use online dating sites are desperate. Pew notes that’s an 8-percentage-point decline from 2005. Still, there seems to be lingering judgment about using a smartphone to find someone to love.
I think people don’t like to admit that they are having trouble in their romantic life, said Eli Finkel, a social psychology professor at Northwestern University. That concern is misplaced. It is totally normal to figure out who is compatible for you.
If you’re looking, your phone is a good place to search.
To streamline your quest, we looked at some popular apps.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Coffee Meets Bagel’s founders – sisters Arum and Dawoon Kang, both 30, and Soo Kang, 33 – thought the online dating market lacked something: products that really understand the way women want to date. Women hate wasting money or time on dating products, Dawoon said, and (we) look for not (necessarily) marriage but meaningful connections.
The app’s setup is simple: It uses Facebook networks to match potential dates (friends-of-friends matches are 37 percent more likely to result in mutual interest than non-friends-of-friends matches). Users fill out a pretty bare-bones profile, with some multiple-choice questions about religion, ethnicity and age range, plus a few prompts, such as I appreciate when a date is completed in 150 characters or fewer.
Then, every day at noon, users get a bagel, or match. Coffee Meets Bagel also sets up a private line to allow text messaging without revealing personal phone numbers. Matches expire after 24 hours, so thumb-twiddlers need not apply. The site launched in 2012 with 200 of the Kangs’ friends and grew through word of mouth. It now has 150,000 users nationwide. That user base skews smart, young and professional.
Rating: Goal, 4; preparation, 2; face-to-face, 2; matches 1
It took moving to New York as a postgrad for Michael Waxman to realize how easy he had it in college when it came to finding dates and making friends. In 2011, he founded the group-date app Grouper. Users sign up through Facebook and pick a trio of friends; Grouper plans a meeting with a set of three other friends at a local bar.
Each date costs $20 per person and includes one round of drinks at the establishment, which is selected by Grouper. Fun is the main priority, Waxman stresses. So daters looking for a party atmosphere will be pleased. Those looking for a quieter, one-on-one interaction might feel overwhelmed. The average age of Groupers is 26, and nearly all have a bachelor’s degree.
Rating: Goal, 2; preparation, 1; face-to-face, 1; matches, 1
Tinder, launched in 2012, is a free app that searches for singles based on the user’s location. Tinder is linked to Facebook, so users can easily upload head shots from their account and are able to see shared friends and interests. The premise is pretty superficial: Users make snap judgments based on photos, swiping right to approve a potential match and left to bypass one.
Notifications about matches aren’t sent unless both users approve of each other, so it’s good for those with a fear of rejection. The site has, on average, 5 million new matches and 400 million profile ratings per day. The biggest audience is 18- to 24-year-olds, co-founder Justin Mateen said.
It’s easy to download, and there’s no extensive profile required, which has made it popular among college students and perhaps those less interested in devoting time to dating.
Rating: Goal, 3; preparation, 1; face-to-face, 3; matches, 5
OkCupid is one of the largest free online dating sites, boasting more than 4 million active users. Created by a group of Harvard mathematicians and launched in 2004, OkCupid matches daters using a special algorithm generated by user activity and answers to questions.
In 2009, the site launched OkTrends, a data-driven blog that explores online dating trends based on what was learned from millions of OkCupid user interactions (example: How Your Race Affects the Messages You Get). It has received more than 1 million views.
OkCupid was acquired for $50 million in 2011 by IAC, which operates the dating site Match.com.
Rating: Goal, 4; preparation, 3; face-to-face, 3; matches, 5