“I’m about 95 percent certain,” he says, “that if I’d met Rachel offline, and if I’d never done online dating, I would’ve married her. At that point in my life, I would’ve overlooked everything else and done whatever it took to make things work. No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that. I was eager to see what else was out there.”
The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?
“The future will see better relationships but more divorce,” predicts Dan Winchester, the founder of a free dating site based in the U.K. “The older you get as a man, the more experienced you get. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. Add to that the effect of online dating.” He continued, “I often wonder whether matching you up with great people is getting so efficient, and the process so enjoyable, that marriage will become obsolete.”
But most of the online-dating-company executives I interviewed while writing my new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms, agreed with what research appears to suggest: the rise of online dating will mean an overall decrease in commitment
“Historically,” says Greg Blatt, the CEO of Match’s parent company, “relationships have been billed as ‘hard’ because, historically, commitment has been the goal. ” Mate scarcity also plays an important role in people’s relationship decisions. “Look, if I lived in Iowa, I’d be married with four children by now,” says Blatt, a 40?something bachelor in Manhattan. “That’s just how it is.”
You could say online dating is simply changing people’s ideas about whether commitment itself is a life value
Another online-dating exec hypothesized an inverse correlation between commitment and the efficiency of technology. “I think divorce rates will increase as life in general becomes more real-time,” says Niccolo Formai, the head of social-media marketing at Badoo, a meeting-and-dating ldssingles dating website app with about 25 million active users worldwide. “Think about the evolution of other kinds of content on the Web-stock quotes, news. The goal has always been to make it faster. The same thing will happen with meeting. It’s exhilarating to connect with new people, not to mention beneficial for reasons having nothing to do with romance. You network for a job. You find a flatmate. Over time you’ll expect that constant flow. People always said that the need for stability would keep commitment alive. But that thinking was based on a world in which you didn’t meet that many people.”
“Societal values always lose out,” says Noel Biderman, the founder of Ashley Madison, which calls itself “the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters”-that is, cheating. “Premarital sex used to be taboo,” explains Biderman. “So women would become miserable in marriages, because they wouldn’t know any better. But today, more people have had failed relationships, recovered, moved on, and found happiness. They realize that that happiness, in many ways, depends on having had the failures. As we become more secure and confident in our ability to find someone else, usually someone better, monogamy and the old thinking about commitment will be challenged very harshly.”