With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, many single Americans will be swiping right on dating apps, hoping to find someone special. In fact, three-in-ten adults say they have used a dating app at some point, and in 2017, 40% of heterosexual couples and 65% of homosexual couples found a partner online.
While online dating was once considered embarrassing, today it’s become the primary way that people meet dating partners. Experts say that the ubiquity of smartphones has a lot to do with this, as well as changing family structures. More and more people, especially young people, are willing to date outside their social group–and even sometimes outside of their culture–to find someone they deem compatible. Online dating offers many more options to users looking for something unique. As a result, dating has become a much more solitary act. Instead of relying on friends and family to introduce us to partners, we seek them ourselves.
As a result, every year approximately 1,000 new dating apps hit the market, adding to the 2,500 already active in the U.S. market.
Online Dating: An Economic Boon
Another factor in the rise of dating apps is the free/freemium model. Unlike earlier online dating websites, many of today’s popular dating apps allow users to register, create a profile, and browse other users without spending any money. The apps can be free because of sponsorships and ads, just like many phone games rely on. With nothing to lose, many singles are more willing to give an app a try.
The other source of revenue for free dating apps is premium upgrades. Upgrades include additional features like seeing whether or not someone has read your message, seeing who has viewed your profile, sending unlimited messages, or receiving a “boost” to your profile where the site promotes you for a limited time. Depending on the site, these paid upgrades may cost users up to $90 per year!
Subscription sites do still exist as well. The cost of these subscriptions can vary but is often hundreds of dollars. A three-month membership on Match.com, for instance, will cost $31.99, a six-month membership costs $26.65, and a full year costs $23.99. In contrast, the cost of Elite Singles, a site catering to people with college and graduate degrees, will range from $167.85-$383.40 per year depending on the type of subscription.
Beyond the money the apps themselves make, online dating has made an impact on the economy. Not only are more people going on dates, bringing business to restaurants and entertainment venues, but retailers are feeling the impact, too. Daniel McMurtrie, co-founder and CEO of Tyro Capital Management, claims this impact can best be seen in the rise of male grooming products. Since online dating relies heavily on pictures, many men are investing more in beauty products aimed at them, including skin creams and beard and hair care products.
All told, online dating is a $555 million market that’s expected to be worth $649 million by 2023.
Who’s Participating In Online Dating?
In 2020, approximately 30% of American adults have tried an online dating app or website. Online dating does tend to attract certain demographics more than others. For instance, members of the LGBTQ community are much more likely to meet a partner online. Similarly, there are more male users on dating platforms, with men making up 52.4% of users and women making up 47.6% of users. Unsurprisingly, online dating is also more popular with young people, with 50% of people under 30 having tried online dating.
Online dating participation also varies by location. In larger cities, where people marry later and more residents are likely to be single, online dating is more popular. In more rural places, where people marry earlier and are more likely to marry within their social group, online dating sees much less participation. A great example of this disparity is New York state, where 50% of residents are single and a large percentage of those residents use online dating platforms. But in Idaho, it’s a different story. With 60% of residents married, there is much less participation in online dating.
How Can I Stay Safe While Online Dating?
Online dating can be dangerous, so it’s important to know what dangers you face and how to protect yourself. This doesn’t have to dampen your Valentine’s Day vibe. With a little knowledge and common sense, you can have fun, meet great people, and maybe meet the love of your life.
One of the most common threats from online dating is identity theft. According to DatingAdvice.com, 1 in 10 users on free dating sites are actually scammers. Even providing a little bit of personal information, such as your full name, birthday, address, or social security number, can make you vulnerable. Especially early on, stick to exchanging less personal information like your interests and preferences. Also, if a potential date asks for money or favors, this is a major red flag. Even if this person seems nice and shares a story of how they’re down on their luck, it’s very possible this person is trying to manipulate you.
Another way to reduce your risk of being scammed is to stick to well-known and reviewed dating apps. Many of the bigger online dating sites are cracking down on fake profiles, with Tinder introducing panic buttons and anti-catfishing software to their platforms and many other sites following suit. Similarly, if an app’s reviews frequently mention scammers or fake profiles, it’s a good idea to avoid that site.
Additionally, it’s smart to research your date online before you meet them. Check social media to get a sense of whether this person is who they say they are. While it’s possible your date doesn’t use social media, odds are that they will since 79% of Americans have at least one social media account. If their social media profile doesn’t match their dating profile, this should cause you to question their honesty.
Only meet your dates in public places that are familiar to you, and drive yourself or take public transportation instead of letting your date pick you up. Don’t put yourself in a position where your date can have control over you, such as when you are a passenger in their car. While most users on dating sites are perfectly normal people, studies show that 10% of sex offenders use online dating sites. As of right now, most online dating sites make no attempt to vet users on their platforms, so it’s best to get to know new dates slowly and to protect your privacy until you are certain you can trust this person. You can also check the National Sex Offender Registry if you have concerns.
Another great tip is to use a burner phone number for online dates until you get to know them. Apps like Google Voice and BurnerApp.com let you link a second, usable number to your phone. Then, if a date from online becomes too persistent, you can simply disconnect your burner number. Similarly, once you trust a user, you can exchange your real number with them.
Always share details about your date with a trusted friend or family member. Share pictures of your date from the website, screenshots of their profile, as well as where you’ll be and when. Send regular updates, especially if you change location. If you’re afraid of seeming rude, you can simply tell your date why you are texting and keep your messages short. Or you can excuse yourself to the restroom and send update texts from there. And if your date is offended by your efforts to protect yourself, it’s probably best to move on anyway.
From all of us here at TracSoft, have a happy, safe Valentine’s Day!
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