My parents split in 2009. Although at the time, it was absolutely devastating to my brothers and I, but many of my friends’ parents divorced now that their children were older. As the legal battle settled and wounds started to heal, my parents’ weekends boomed with “appointments” and “going out with friends”. Determining who’s had the kids for the weekend became a battle of the social butterflies, because both simply could not cancel their engagement. Eventually, I figured out what was going on. My parents desperately wanted to find new partners, and were fiercely campaigning on sites like Match and eHarmony to search for a companion. Incidentally, they both DID find relatively good partners; though my mother lost her first boyfriend to a heart attack and my father’s girlfriend walked out on him because he wouldn’t propose. But life goes on, and the quest for love continues.
The subject of online dating appeals to me on a personal level, but also as an aspiring economist. The aging baby boomers, a huge portion of the population, experience abnomally high divorce rates. Additionally, the wallets of the baby boomers represent 3 trillion dollars in spending. So, there’s a large population shift and money to blow- an economist’s dream.
If I’m going to be discussing online dating for the next few weeks, I think it would only be fair to set up a profile. My site of choice, OkCupid, is extremely friendly and easy to use (and free). While developing my profile, I found many professional blogs where customers pay for anything from tips on how to develop their username to photo shoots for their profile picture. The site prompted me to answer several ridiculous questions, asking me what I’d do on a regular Friday night and to list six things I couldn’t live without. Also, I had to answer 25 questions about my values. These quizzed me on topics ranging from my political beliefs to what kind of pets I prefer.
Although there’s a considerable social stigma towards those who use online dating sites, it is certainly effective in widening one’s network of available bachelors. By the end of the day, 152 people viewed my profile. I received about 15 messages from different men. As someone who has a relatively routine schedule, I probably introduce myself to a maximum of five new men each week, primarily in a nighttime setting. I can see why people are attracted to the idea of meeting a vast range of people in a small geographic area with similar values. Many of the people who contacted me were either in the military or recent college grads. These groups of people are likely to have recently moved with little time off, therefore their social networks will be relatively limited.
In my opinion, this site’s main weakness is the amount and quality of information that can be presented in one’s profile. When meeting someone in a coffee shop or a sporting event, learning intimate, personal details organic process that requires trust and time. Whereas on OkCupid, one’s preferences, morals, and goals are available for the viewer to see with the click of a mouse. Learning these aspects of a person slowly helps give strength to a relationship. Besides, on online dating sites, users are able to project an identity that is more of an ideal self than reality. If matches are created on the basis of a masquerade instead of genuine chemistry, there may be disappointment on both parties.
Although there are definite downsides to meeting people behind a screen, one in five relationships start online, and when used as a networking device, online dating sites can be a major advantage to one’s love life.