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Dating apps are common, useful—and widely disliked

Dating apps are common, useful—and widely disliked

“So, how did you guys meet?”

When you’re in a relationship, it’s almost certain you’ll get this question in one form or another, whether it’s from your parents, siblings, friends, or even co-workers.

For many, the answer is a dating site or app.

Nearly a quarter of people have used or are currently using online dating services. For young and middle aged adults (18-44 years old), this number increases to a third.

Given the widespread adoption of dating sites and apps, we wanted to learn how people feel about them. To get answers, we asked more than 4,000 adults—out of the more than 3 million people who take surveys on SurveyMonkey every day—about their perception and use of these services.

Don’t worry if your knowledge of some dating sites and apps "dates you." Hopefully, some of our points still resonate.

Different generations have different views on their purpose

Online dating services aim to help you meet someone. But “meet” carries different interpretations across demographics.

More than half of young adults (18-24 years old) see dating sites and apps as platforms for casual hookups. Older adults are more likely to see them as a means to helping them develop short and long-term relationships.

These different perspectives are reflected in the popularity of the dating services people choose to use:

So dating sites are popular. But does that mean people like them?

People tend to dislike online dating services

Roughly 56% of adults view dating apps and services as either somewhat or very negative; their unfavorability persists across age groups and gender. For example, 59% of women and 55% of men have either a somewhat or very negative opinion on dating sites and apps.

It's not easy to diagnose the root cause of sentiments like these. But here are two possible explanations:

1) Inherent risks when you’re searching for someone online. The ability to evaluate character online can be hard. You miss out on things like body language, tone of voice, and other qualities that can help guide your instincts and protect yourself.

Not all dating services screen for sex offenders, and fraudsters use them to steal hundreds of millions of dollar a year.

Even when the person on the other end is also interested in dating, they can easily misrepresent themselves. A survey by conducted by security software makers Symantec found that lying about everything from age, height, relationship status, and income are extremely common.

2) Distrust in the protection of your personal information. Our survey found only 6% of people are either extremely or very confident that these services do everything they can to protect their subscriber’s information. This results in a mere 5% of people being either very or extremely comfortable in providing their personal information.

With events like the data scandal at Facebook, pessimism around the use of personal information among online dating businesses is bound to increase.

Those who have used online dating services tend to like them more

Finally, for some positive news: People who’ve used dating sites and apps at some point, see these businesses in a more favorable light—especially if its allowed them to meet their partner.

  • 58% rate them as either somewhat or very positive (78% for people who have met their partner online)
  • 48% are at least somewhat confident that they do everything they can to protect their subscriber’s information (58% for people who’ve met their partner online)
  • 50% are at least somewhat comfortable providing their personal information to them (58% for people who’ve met their partner online)

As dating sites and apps continue to acquire new users, they may be able to improve their reputation over time.  

Regardless of whether you like or dislike online dating services, there’s a good chance you use them. They allow you to conveniently meet and connect with like-minded people, which can more than offset the potential costs in their use. So next time someone asks you how you met your significant other, don’t be shy. In truth, there’s a good chance that their own relationship story shares a similar beginning.

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