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The search for love in the digital age tends to stir up a lot of anxiety. If you’ve ever heard stories from your friends about their bad dates, you might reasonably approach dating apps with caution. But just as online dating can foster some comically bad experiences, there are plenty of benefits as well. Many of us know couples who seem so perfectly matched that it’s almost impossible to believe they met on opposite sides of a screen.
When it comes down to it, does online dating actually work? While you might be worried it’s not a good idea (or even a waste of time), like all matters in love, it has its pros and cons. We decided to bring the question to licensed ily therapist and relationship expert Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching.
Lisa ily therapist with over 15 years of experience. She is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, the award-winning author of Exaholics, and the host of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.
Dating apps can lead to superficiality and ghosting, but there are also many positives. “While online dating has some potential for pitfalls compared to meeting people in real life, the volume of possibilities is much higher,” says Bobby. “That increases the chances that you’ll meet someone you’re truly compatible with.”
Research shows that online dating is on the rise. A Pew Research Center study conducted in ericans have used online dating, compared to just 11 percent in 2013. Of those, 12 percent have gotten married or been in a committed relationship with someone they met through online dating-a notable increase from just 3 percent in 2013.
Online dating appears to be a practical way to date for most people. According to the study, roughly 60 percent of participants have had positive experiences with dating platforms. Many people have success finding romantic partners online, whether they’re looking for something casual or long term. Overall, the majority of participants found it relatively easy to meet potentially compatible partners in terms of those they found attractive or with whom they shared hobbies and interests.
Research shows, however, there are negative side effects of online dating, particularly for young women. According to the survey, 60 percent of women ages 18 to 34 say someone on an app or dating site kept contacting them after they said they weren’t interested while about the same percentage of women in that age group reported that they were sent unsolicited sexually explicit pictures or messages.
Bobby says the reason for many of the negative aspects of online dating could be a lack of what she calls a “shared community.” “Connecting through online dating feels much more like meeting a virtual stranger and having to establish points of meaningful connection with little real-world experience to go on,” she says. “Furthermore, the absence of a shared community or relationships make it easier to ghost or be inconsiderate without concern of consequences to your reputation or comfort in your community.”
Before you download an app or two and create your profile, Bobby recommends some soul-searching. The last thing you want to do is start matching with people online, get to talking, and realize you have no idea what you’re looking for out of a partner or a relationship.
“Spend time and energy getting clear about who you are and what you really want in a relationship, and think about who your ideal partner is,” says Bobby. “Also, think about what your ideal partner is seeking in a prospective mate and how you can connect with them authentically.”
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