The question at hand in Dan Slater's piece in the latest Atlantic print edition, "A Million First Dates: How Online Dating is Threatening Monogamy," is whether online dating can change some basic settings in American heterosexual relationships such that monogamy and commitment are less important.
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Matthew Kassel’s New York Observer piece about his frustrations with online dating is sad, endearing, and very good.
In short, he argues that OKCupid, Tinder, and their ilk encourage an endless series of first dates that don’t really go anywhere.
It should also be noted: There isn't a single woman's perspective in this story. Or someone who was into polyamory before online dating.
Or some kind of historical look at how commitment rates have changed in the past and what factors drove those increases or decreases.
Now, let's stipulate that there is no dataset that perfectly settles the core question: Does online dating increase or decrease commitment or its related states, like marriage?
But I'll tell you one group that I would not trust to give me a straight answer: People who run online dating sites.
And yet, divorce rates among this exact group have been declining for 30 years. If technology were the problem, you'd expect that people who can afford to use the technology, and who have been using the technology, would be seeing the impacts of this new lack of commitment. Does it follow that within this wealthy, educated group, online daters are less likely to commit or stay married? Like I said, there's no data to prove that question one way or the other. AOne result of the increasing importance of the Internet in meeting partners is that adults with Internet access at home are substantially more likely to have partners, even after controlling for other factors.
Partnership rate has increased during the Internet era (consistent with Internet efﬁciency of search) for same sex couples, but the heterosexual partnership rate has been ﬂat. "The Internet's potential to change matching is perhaps greatest for those facing thin markets or difﬁculty in meeting potential mates." This could increase marriage rates as people with smaller pools can more easily ﬁnd each other.
The argument is that online dating expands the romantic choices that people have available, somewhat like moving to a city. For example, if you give people more chocolate bars to choose from, the story tells us, they think the one they choose tastes worse than a control group who had a smaller selection.