Secrets and lies in online love

Was your Valentine's Day great - or are you on the lookout for new love? Online dating might be your saviour - or is it destroying commitment?

I hope Valentine’s Day brought you everything you wished in the world of lover – but if it didn’t, maybe you shouldn’t be concerned, because we might be living in a golden age of love: figures from various surveys done in the last few years suggests that between one in six and one in ten couples who marry eacy year met through online dating.

The Atlantic ran a long piece based on Dan Slater’s book Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating that does much to challenge the positive perception of online dating:

“I’m about 95 percent certain,” he says, “that if I’d met Rachel offline, and if I’d never done online dating, I would’ve married her. At that point in my life, I would’ve overlooked everything else and done whatever it took to make things work. Did online dating change my perception of permanence? No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that. I was eager to see what else was out there.”

Well, we do live in the era of Bang with Friends, a Facebook app that allows you to select which of your friends you’d like to have sex with – and if the feeling’s mutual, it lets you both know. Take the guesswork and courtship out of the process – and get down to business. Is romance finally dead?

Well, perhaps not. Commenters took immediate exception to The Atlantic piece, pointing out that it’s very male-centric and shoddy behaviour by one man does not a trend make. The Atlantic acknowledged the concerns, and has run a range of responses from various writers. One of them specifically refutes the trend idea – with data:

First off, the heaviest users of technology–educated, wealthier people–have been using online dating and networking sites to find each other for years. And yet, divorce rates among this exact group have been declining for 30 years. Take a look at these statistics. If technology were the problem, you’d expect that people who can afford to use the technology, and who have been using the technology, would be seeing the impacts of this new lack of commitment. But that’s just not the case.

Maybe we’re just disturbed by certain truths that were harder to acknowledge in the pre-digital world. Some people just want to have sex with others without  relationship at times in their lives – that’s what Bang with Friends offers with complete honesty. Indeed, the fact that it uses Facebook suggests that few people are lying about their relationship status when they click on people they’d like to, uh, “bang”. There are some people who would rather drift from relationship to relationship without really working at them – they’re called serial monogamists – and online dating just makes that easier.

At least when two people meet for a date setup through an online dating site, it’s reasonably clear why they’re both there. Fundamentally, the problem isn’t the honesty of online dating – it’s the dishonesty of people who use them. And that’s nothing new or unique to the digital era…