People today are busy. As a result, they’re staying single longer, and they’re more and more connected to their devices. In some ways, technology enhances human interaction.1 Smartphones and laptops have changed how we communicate with almost everyone: our moms, our cat-sitters, and even our best friends from grade school.2 They have certainly changed whom we have sex with and date.3
Apps like Tinder connect people who otherwise might not have met.4 And they’re becoming more efficient at it all the time.5 Apps curate our choices,6 make it easier to ask out a stranger,7 and take a lot of the risk (and cold sweats) out of first dates.8 When it comes down to it, though, online dating operates by the same social rules as dating in real life—and suffers from the same human flaws.9 But data shows it works.10
As more matchmaking apps flood the market, entrepreneurs will experiment with new algorithms and features. Some will flop.11 But the ones that succeed will help us forge connections in ways we’ve never imagined.12
“Technology mediates all of our relationships, operating through shared pictures, texts, even emojis.” -Eric Klinenberg
“We can now be social with screens in ways we never could before. But chatting online is a supplement, not a substitute, for meeting face to face. We mistake that at our peril.” -E.K.
“Snapchat has become an incredibly popular way to flirt. People feel they can communicate with images in ways they can’t with words.” -E.K.
“Think of online dating sites as introduction services. The best way to use these technologies is to let them make the person-to-person connection happen more quickly.” -E.K.
“With traditional sites, like Match?com, dating can feel like a second job. Tinder, on the other hand, turns online dating into more of a game.” -E.K.
“The Internet has made people and ideas more disposable, whether romantic or any other kind. But it has also brought more ideas to people’s notice, so it kind of balances out.” -Christian Rudder
“The world in general is not amenable to strangers meeting; that’s why there are bars. Online dating is the newest venue created to meet people.” -C.R.
“You can online date from the privacy of your home. It’s safer in some ways because you’re not three beers in when you’re meeting someone.” -C.R.
“People are not good predictors of what they actually want. People have beliefs or biases that they’re not aware of, that they don’t want to own up to.” -C.R.
“Already a third of all marriages start online. And marriages take time. So imagine what that rate will be in three years.” -C.R.
“Dating will be photo-based until someone solves how to do video. But that content is way harder to moderate; Chatroulette is the prime example. You can’t let users upload videos of anything they want and hope for the best, because your site will fail.” -C.R.
“Future apps will allow you to make an online connection to someone you’re next to in real life but don’t have a way to contact. Geospatial will be the main thing. Version 3.0? I think it’s going to be teleportation. I’m kidding. Oh man, if I knew the answer to that question, I’d quit my job and move to Silicon Valley.” -E.K.
Ask the Experts
To find out which emojis you should (and shouldn’t) use to flirt, check out Emoji Users Have Sex on the Brain.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2016 issue of Popular Science.