Why Dating Apps Are Actually Great for Real Relationships

Jeremy Nguyen

When you think of dating apps, a few things usually come to mind: 1) MTV’s Catfish, 2) Non-stop Netflix and Chill invites, and 3) The grim death of the dating world your parents always warned you about. If any of these thoughts apply to you, rest assured knowing that your initial instincts are dead wrong. Whether or not you want to admit it, utilizing dating apps has become the new norm, and it’s the best thing to happen to lonely singletons since cats. And we have Match.com to thank for it.

What started as one, solitary site in 1996 quickly spawned a dating revolution, a trend that promptly transcended bulky desktops to millennial phone screens across the world. And it just keeps getting bigger. In 2013 more than 2,500 dating sites were available in the U.S., and roughly 1,000 others were popping up each year. The number continues to grow and because of it, you’re guaranteed to find at least one service you don’t hate. From connecting people who love the gym (Sweatt), to dog owners (Twindog), to classy workaholics looking for someone to share the daily grind with (The League) -- whatever the niche, there’s an app for that.

Jeremy Nguyen

1. They lead to long-term relationships, not just hookups

The complaint is ubiquitous: dating apps are perpetuating hookup culture and killing relationships. But let's be real -- people have been seeking out casual sex since the beginning of time. Like, since the caveman days, when the Internet wasn't a thing and grunts were adequate pick-up lines. And while plenty of swipers have relied on Tinder for the sporadic hookup, research shows that responsibility can't be placed on dating apps alone. According to a 2013 study from U.S. researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, more than a third of people who tied the knot between 2015 and 2012 started their relationship online. Researchers also found that only 5.96% of online-based couples file for divorce, as opposed to 7.67% of couples that start their relationship offline, or as our grandparents used to called it, "the lonely outside world."

But why trust numbers when you can witness a real-life example? “I met my husband online and we’ve been together for ten years,” says Stacey, a New York photo editor. “I helped a friend create a profile and told her to message this guy because he was cute, but she never did. One night, I decided to make a profile and message him myself. Things obviously worked out for me.”

2. Online dating can be very personal

A large chunk of time goes into making an online dating profile, so to say what you're viewing is impersonal is just plain wrong. Between photos that highlight important aspects of your life, to a bio that thoroughly explains why you're more of a dog person, to sorting through an extensive list of dating preferences, the entire process is very personal. Not to mention, skimming through a profile before your initial face-to-face meeting makes the first date even more intimate. You know details about this person you never would have gathered from a random meeting at a bar.

"What I like best about dating profiles is reading between the lines," says Jake, a 34-year-old guy who recently put himself on OkCupid. "Everyone puts Shawshank Redemption on their list of favorite movies, but I'm looking deeper. Movie preferences say a lot about character… and I need someone who's willing to sit through an all-day marathon of Shawshank. Better I find that out before the actual date."

Jeremy Nguyen

3. People are more likely to settle down despite the large dating pool

When questioned about the positives of online dating, the first thing Manhattan-based couples therapist Jean Fitzpatrick mentioned was the massive amount of opportunity. “Online dating broadens your pool beyond your friend group,” she explained. “It’s a way to connect with a wider circle of people and with potential partners [you] might never have met through friends or work.” While some would argue that having too big of a dating pool could hinder your chances of a lasting relationship -- why settle down when you can bone half the tri-state area? -- stats say otherwise.

According to Coffee Meets Bagel, a popular dating app that sorts out individual prospects daily, 40% of users know someone who met their spouse or partner online. That makes sense since Match.com helped create a total of 517,000 relationships, 92,000 marriages, and 1 million babies. Take that, skeptics. Numbers don’t lie.

4. They’re reviving the actual date

If there’s one thing dating apps are doing right, it’s bringing dating back. The beauty of talking to multiple love interests at one time is having the opportunity to fill your week out and date around. Movie on Monday! Happy hour on Tuesday! Steak dinner on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! Weird hipster art show you’re not really going to understand on Saturday! This is what dating is all about -- going on dates. How are you going to find just one person if you don’t go out with several first? According to Hinge stats, users go on an average of 4-5 dates before meeting their significant other. Tinder’s records yielded similar results.

As of late 2014, roughly 50 million people were using Tinder every month, and nearly 9 billion matches have been made since. From all of those matches, roughly 1.5 million in-person dates stem each week, and more than half go on a second date. In short: start setting up those dinner reservations now.

5. You are most likely talking to a sincere person, not a catfish

Um, hello? Catfish can’t talk. Kidding -- but really, that’s a huge generalization to make about the billions of people found on dating apps. We get that Nev Schulman and Manti Te’o got the short end of the stick here, but that doesn’t automatically mean you'll experience the same woes. Gwendolyn Seidman, an associate professor of psychology at Albright College, explains, “online daters realize that while, on the one hand, they want to make the best possible impression in their profile, on the other hand, if they do want to pursue an offline relationship, they can’t begin it with outright falsehoods that will quickly be revealed for what they are.”

In other words, people who actually want to take you on a date after a day of talking aren’t going to be showing up with an MTV camera crew and a sob story on how they're not actually Bow Wow. If they’re really serious about taking you out, the chances of them lying about who they are become significantly smaller because -- as Seidman pointed out -- you can’t adequately start a relationship with a lie.