Searching for the perfect match, the partner with whom it is possible to develop a nurturing relationship is not an easy task. The modern way of life, moreover, is so frenetic and planned to the minute that does not leave many chances to date a companion. When it happens, often the couple misinterprets a momentary attraction for eternal soul matching, ending up in a relationship that does not work and making the statistics on divorce and unhappy people increase.
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Today, new technologies and the spread of the Internet offer new opportunities to mingle and to meet a compatible partner. Since the mid-1990s, dating websites have been growing in popularity, while the recent rise of smartphones as a favorite means to access the Internet has resulted in a plethora of apps devoted to dating. Unquestionably, online dating and dating apps have dramatically changed the scenario of romantic meetings, yet arising some questions on how an algorithm can handle such a crucial and personal area of life.
Online dating websites follow a similar scheme, where singles fill in a questionnaire, sharing much information about general preferences, hobbies, work, and income among others. The system, through an algorithm, shows a broad pool of potential partners. The advantage is evident, as singles have the chance to test different matches and have a first skimming to understand which partners are more compatible and if a face-to-face meet would be desirable.
Two other differences, perhaps less striking, should be highlighted. First, the romantic acquaintance has changed substantially: what was traditionally slow learning to know a person has been wiped away by the availability of consistent info about a potential partner. Second, communicating behind a screen by typing on a keyboard is very different from talking during a real meeting: it might appear more comfortable, but it lacks the emotional aspects of a face-to-face date.
Dating apps go a step further, eliminating both the slowness of traditional dating and the compilation of a profile page. Most dating apps introduce potential partners by showing a picture on the basis of a few parameters, such as purpose and age range. The interaction is reduced to two basic actions: “reject” or “like,” performed by a swipe left or right with a finger. If two persons like each other, the system allows them to chat. Usually, dating apps are associated with casual dating and short-term relationships. Compared to traditional dating, both online dating websites and dating apps magnify the ability to connect with a potential partner.
From a psychological perspective, online and traditional dating meet different needs and wants within a relationship. Online dating satisfies the need for long and sincere communication, an aspect that is lacking in many of today’s relationships. However, if online communication is too long and does not result in a real meeting, it turns into a pen-pal relationship. This aspect is somehow related to an essential shortcoming of online dating, namely the lack of intimacy: a relationship needs a physical connection, including eye contact, body language, gestures, and touches.
While virtual communication occurs among two-dimensional people, physical communication makes a relationship multidimensional and rich in intimacy. For example, it can satisfy the need of feeling protected, accepted, or understood. Traditional dating involves consistent use of body language, meeting the needs for true intimacy. However, excessive shyness or feeling socially uncomfortable might deliver negative messages that hinder communication. In such cases, the need for protection and stability is not met.
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Advantages of online dating and dating apps include a broad availability of potential matches, the opportunity for a first approach to evaluating the level of compatibility, and extended online communication to deepen the acquaintance. Unlike dating websites, dating apps do not provide large and ready information on potential matches, and the algorithm is developed from a few data. Traditional dating has a more emotional impact, where compatibility and info about a potential partner are discovered step by step. A final consideration cannot help noticing that, sooner or later, online dating needs to become real to create a relationship.