Online dating is more common, and less stigmatized, than ever before. 11% of American adults now use online dating sites–up from just 3% in 2008. 4 out of 10 adults who are “single and looking for a partner” are looking online. But why the fast rise of this new dating trend? With mobile technology, online dating has become a social–and surprisingly public–activity.
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Original online dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com relied on solitary users privately filling out personal profiles. But the creators of those sites noticed behavior shifts towards the mobile web. IAC/InterActiveCorp, owner of match.com and OkCupid, funded the creation of Tinder, seeing that the mobile, social web was on the rise. It might have been hard for the company to imagine how much that app would change young people’s perception of online dating. The mobile app draws basic Facebook information (name, age, interests and a few photos) into a platform that allows users to swipe left if they are interested in someone and right if they are not. When two people swipe right, they’re a ‘match’ and can chat.
With the portability of smartphones and tablets, any online activity can become a social activity. And Tinder did. It’s common for groups of friends to sit around “playing Tinder” together, showing each other pictures and messages. Online dating is not a private, semi-embarrassing activity anymore. It’s now part of how we spend time with friends and entertain ourselves at parties. My friends send me screenshots of their Tinder chats and I hear guys talking about Tinder dates on the M15. The online dating service is becoming part of our offline lives.
Which is why it was particularly interesting when Amanda Hess posed this question on Slate last week: why don’t single sitcom characters date online? Pew reports that 42% of Americans know an online dater – so why don’t we see it represented more in media? To be fair, watching someone Google, Tweet, or do most other normal online activities wouldn’t blow ratings through the roof either, but online dating is becoming a substantial part of our offline social lives.
Well, this spring, Bravo is launching “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male,” a show that follows men in their search for love and/or action online.
Shari Levine, Senior Vice President of Current Production/Original Programming, explains that the rational behind creating this show, in line with Pew’s findings, is the fast-rising number of online daters: “Online dating has become extremely mainstream now and whether or not you are on an online dating site, someone in your inner circle is active on one. Now more than ever, we felt this would resonate with our viewers and that people would find the male perspective intriguing.”
Creators of the show posit males who date online have a significantly different set of objectives than their female counterparts, and are betting it will make for some great television. Levine says, “Generally speaking, women who participate in online dating are looking for a long-term relationship, where the men we encountered were not necessarily looking for “Mrs. Right,” but rather a “Mrs. Right Now.” Or, maybe these men secretly want love and just don’t want to admit it! The show certainly captures an insider’s perspective of the male psyche and how they approach dating in the digital age.”
It’s possible the show will reveal men and women have more in common than expected. The site that has done the most to normalize very casual online dating–Tinder–finds females sign up in near-equal proportions to men and reject about the same proportion (70%) of potential matches as men do. Ann Friedman pulls these statistics up to make a case for how female-friendly the app is, also noting that its design allows users to indicate mutual interest before either party can initiate an interaction. The upcoming Bravo show will serve as a test–and likely an affirmation–that online daters are not so different than offline daters, and that men and women can be equally earnest or scummy. Either way, it will be a televised sign of just how common online dating has become. “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” premieres on Sunday, March 9at 10p.m. ET/PT.
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