Survey: Online Dating Convenient but May Lead to ‘Greater Relationship Dissatisfaction’

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Young Americans are expressing “ambivalence” about online dating, some saying its convenience is bogged down by the “illusion of nearly limitless dating partners” that can lead to greater relationship dissatisfaction.

The Survey Center of American Life conducted a survey about dating and relationships with 5,055 U.S. adults, which included in-depth interviews with 21 young adults (ages 18 to 29) about their experiences with online dating. Daniel Cox, the director of the Survey Center on American Life, wrote that most interviewees like the convenience of dating online but feel like it can be “transactional” or “difficult to calibrate.”

“People think that they just have a million options,” one 26-year-old woman said during an interview. “It’s like when you want to watch a show and you put on Netflix and like, you literally find yourself not being able to decide for like an hour and then you wind up not watching anything.”

“Anytime a person, man or woman, has limitless options all the time, there is this perception, and most of the time it’s a false perception, that who they’re with now isn’t good enough,” a 28-year-old single man said. “That’s why no one has patience with each other anymore, because they could get something better.”

A 26-year-old married man said that online dating makes it “easier to advance very quickly and then just kind of move on to the next person very easily compared to try to make things work out.” Another woman said the illusion of endless choices makes people “more tempted to stay outside the bounds of what a lot of people consider like a traditional monogamous relationship.” 

Other young adults talked about how the “inorganic” nature of online dating “takes some of the mystery out of it” or can even be “odd” or “dehumanizing.” 

Data from the survey indicate that while online dating is becoming more widespread, most Americans (76 percent) have never tried it and prefer to meet potential partners in the wild. Roughly 23 percent of those surveyed say they have used a dating app or website. Online dating is most popular with younger adults (ages 18 to 29), although Millennials are more likely than Gen Zers to have tried online dating apps.

Online dating is much more prevalent with Americans who say they are gay and lesbian. Fifty-eight percent of gay and lesbian Americans and 48 percent who say they are bisexual have tried dating online, much higher than heterosexual Americans (21 percent).

“Online dating is also more common among divorced Americans. Forty-one percent of divorced men and 31 percent of divorced women report having dated online,” Cox wrote. 

Survey respondents who have tried online dating gave the experience mixed reviews. More than half (53 percent) say they had a positive experience, and 46 percent say their experience was negative.

“But experiences with online dating vary widely. Men are more likely than women to report positive experiences dating online (57 percent vs. 49 percent, respectively),” Cox wrote. 

The survey was conducted between December 9-18, 2022, and the margin of error is ±1.5 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.


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