Online dating offers mixed success, new study finds
Whether looking for love or a chance meeting, 3 out of 10 American adults say they’ve used a dating site or app — with a variety of experiences, according to a study. Pew Research Center study on Thursday. For the group under 35, more than half have tried it.
The overall figure, up to 30%, has remained unchanged since 2019, the last time the center scrutinized online dating. Lead researcher Colleen McClain said that in 2015, 15% of American adults said they used a dating website or app.
“When we talk to users who have visited the sites more recently, we find that there are indeed mixed emotions,” she said. “Everything from exhaustion to euphoria.”
Among the main points of the study for McClain: 1 in 10 adults with a partner said they met their current significant other on a dating website or app. The number rises to 1 in 5 for those under the age of 30.
When asked about their reasons for using the platform, 44% of current or recent users were thinking about finding a long-term partner, with 40% saying they would like to date casually. 24% are looking for casual sex and 22% are looking for new friends.
Using dating sites and apps is most popular among adults under 30, Pew reports, with 53% saying they’ve done it. This compares with 37% of those aged 30 to 49; 20 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 64; and 13 percent of those 65 and older.
Atlanta firefighter Andy Giron, 33, was among those pleasantly surprised. He said he’d always considered digital dating “a bit weird” until recently.
Giron had just ended a long-term relationship in 2019 when he decided to try Tinder for casual dating. That didn’t work out after a few tries but he hit gold on Hinge a short time later.
“My wife was my first date on Hinge,” he said. “She was easy to talk to and we had a lot in common. We had an immediate connection when we first met face-to-face.”
The two married six months later, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They now have a 1-year-old daughter. Giron was inspired to switch to online dating by his sister, who found her life partner in a similar way.
“I’ve always thought that you should meet someone in the usual, face-to-face way, but this is the way the world is today,” Giron said.
Across age groups, 51% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults used a dating site or app.
Men were more likely to report a positive experience in digital dating than women, 57% versus 48%, and LGBT users were more likely to say the same than average users, 61% versus 53 %. White or Black adults who used one of these platforms were more likely to say their experience was negative than Hispanic users.
The number of men who used dating sites or apps in the past year and cited casual sex as the main reason was 18 percentage points higher than female users who also said the same.
Pew’s research is based on a survey of about 6,000 adults in the United States conducted from July 5 to 17 last year.
The experience of online data providers is variable, with 53% saying they are at least somewhat positive. Fourteen percent said they were very positive, and 48 percent said their experience included at least one of the four undesirable behaviors explored in the study.
Thirty-eight percent of those who reported a negative experience said they had received unsolicited sexual messages or images, and 30 percent reported continued unsolicited communication. 24% said they were called by derogatory names and 6% said they were physically threatened.
Female users are more likely to report such experiences, especially those under the age of 50.
Like Giron, Liv Loughlin, 22, a marketing associate at a tech company in San Jose, California, just ended a long-term relationship when she first tried online dating last September. .
“I wanted to jump in there, especially to meet people because I’m new to the area,” she said. “My first date on a dating app was on Hinge and it was crazy. He was immediately very, very emotional and everything he said had a sexual undertone. . .. I finally got bail.”
But Loughlin did not give up. She turned to Bumble and is currently happily in a relationship with a man she met there.
“I figured I had bottomed out and couldn’t go anywhere but up,” she said.
Safety is a major concern for some digital data sets. Over the years, there have been requirements for more protections, such as mandatory background checks, against reported stalking, sexual assault, and other acts of violence. Very few websites require such a check for every user.
“We see that Americans are divided on this issue,” McClain said. “Forty-eight percent say dating sites are a safe way to meet people. A very similar portion, 49 percent, say they’re not.”
Overall, a majority said dating sites and apps should require people to go through a background check.
Stacy Overcamp, 58, an unemployed marketing professional, knows the dangers well. She has been dating online since about 1998, with some contacts leading to relationships over the years.
“I’ve never had a problem meeting men online. I’ve had problems meeting quality men online,” said Overcamp, a suburb of San Francisco. A long-term relationship ended with stalking, harassment, and bans, she said. The other men she dates turn out to be bankrupts, addicts, or liars. But she remains active because her priorities have shifted to marriage.
Overcamp estimates 30 or 40 contacts per month.
“It would have taken me five years to talk and connect with many of those men if I hadn’t been online,” she said.
Pew studied eight websites and apps. Tinder is most commonly used, with 46% of digital dating users saying they’ve tried it. This represents 14% of all adults in the United States. About 10% of American adults said they used Match or Bumble. Six percent said they’ve tried OkCupid, eharmony, and Hinge.
Grindr and HER are much more popular among lesbian, gay, or bisexual online dating users than among average users. About 34% of LGB users said they had tried Grindr and 10% said they had tried HER.