Critical analysis of the pros and cons of online dating
The world of online dating opens new avenues for people to meet others than have been available in the past, as well as expanding the area in which a person can look. While there are advantages to using an online dating service making it preferable to some, there are also disadvantages making it tricky, exhausting, and even dangerous. The article "Online Dating Vs. Offline Dating: Pros and Cons" by Julie Spira attempts to highlight just those advantages and disadvantages in the form of simple pro and con pairs for online and offline dating services.
This topic is close to me as someone who has frequently utilized online dating services over the years as a way of bypassing my social anxiety – I even met my late husband one such a service. That time has given me many insights and experiences and helped me develop a deeper understanding of the topic. Looking through some of the pros and cons outlined in the primary article, I personally agree with some and would argue with others.
The article argues that both online and offline dating have their advantages and disadvantages. One is not necessarily better than the other is, but rather each expands your options, and people need to incorporate both into their dating routine. Attempting to prove this point, the author mentions activities employed by some popular services and references a statistic about the number of people using online dating platforms. Most of the article is composed of a series of pros and cons. As an example, she points out that online services are available 24/7, but that it can feel like a full-time job (Spira, 2013). These pros and cons are meant to highlight key areas of both worlds and how those key areas both benefit and detriment a person looking for a date, but only construct an argument based on abductive reasoning overall. There is not enough evidence presented to make a solid conclusion or even claim that it is likely – everything presented suggests that she is just making a wild guess at what is best, especially since it is not clear how some of the pros and cons even tie into her argument.
The argument is almost entirely based on bias. The author of the primary article makes a living on writing about online dating services with no research or education backing up her claims. In that regard, everything she says should be taken with a grain of salt because she must say good things about it or she will be out of a job. Almost every example of a "pro and con" for both online and offline dating could be just as relevant to its counterpart. Return to the example, claiming that online dating is available 24/7 as a pro and that it takes a lot of time and organization as a con. As night has grown to be an active period, plenty of places to meet people offline remain available 24 hours a day, and offline dating could just as easily consume the same amount of time and organization. Her bias towards online dating seems to have caused her to choose things to fit into whichever category seemed more relevant, but there is no logical reasoning for why they are placed in that manner.
No resources were provided to back up any of the claims made other than a brief article about the author itself, which attempted to portray her as an expert in the subject. It is not successful in that regard, as it is merely just a compiled list of her past work, whereas an "expert" is normally defined as someone who has conducted extensive research through published and peer reviewed journals, and usually has a high level of education. This lack of any research and shaky credentials makes the argument untrustworthy at best. While many of the things she says make sense on the surface, attempting to dig deeper and analyze any of them causes all of it to crumble apart.
One article from The Guardian tries to argue against online dating, claiming that it is impossible to analyze an interpersonal relationship and that online dating is merely a cash grab by businesses that wish to capitalize on the irrational (Walters, 2011). One of the points the author makes is that many online dating sites ask basic questions like "Are you happy with your life?" It then goes on to say that this is a poor attempt and does not replicate real conversation, but it fails to understand that the questions are not meant to replicate conversation. Instead, they are meant to highlight key aspects of someone's personality to make it easier to identify someone worth talking to without having to invest all the time talking to them and finding it out later and then ultimately decide they may not be the right one. The very example provided can tell you quite a bit about a person. Someone who openly says they are unhappy with their life may be a quick disqualifier for a person who is looking for someone who is more motivated, self-assured, and optimistic. Why does someone need to learn that through natural conversation?
It is hard to find a perfect argument for online dating, because there is not a ton of research available on it. Nobody has studied any dating site in explicit detail, but that is mostly because dating sites actively refuse to release details of their algorithms for matching so they cannot be studied. So most arguments for or against online dating are going to be pure speculation. Ultimately, whether online, offline, or both dating methods work for a person depends entirely on what that person wants in their life.
Consider that a simple relationship and marriage are two entirely different things. Plenty of people can maintain a relationship for a short time, but not every relationship is marriage-quality. Marriage is a life-long commitment that needs to last longer than the initial excitement of being together. Consider cultures that still partake in arranged marriages. These marriages are frequently very successful because little is known about the other person. Rather parents, friends, or other family use their knowledge of you to find someone they believe would be a great match, allowing a very strong bond to develop over time rather than a brittle bond developing over a few weeks. Counter to that, online dating allows for better basic filtering for those who are open to most possibilities but are turned off by certain critical "no" factors like people who smoke and use drugs, or drink too much. Wasting time getting to know someone you met at a bar only to find out they smoke cigarettes and you are not willing to live with that - not everyone likes so much investment. However, for those who are mostly just looking for friends to chat with, those factors may not matter at all.
Online dating literally lets you browse through a huge selection of potential matches to pick out the perfect one. Unfortunately, perfection has its downsides too. When you already consider someone you are meeting for the first time to be "perfect" in your mind, you are setting your expectations extremely high. When you find small flaws with that person or other things you weren't anticipating, it feels like the person didn't live up to your extremely high expectations even though you might very well get along with them. On the other hand, it can be easy to get excited about someone you meet in person and seem to have a lot in common with, but do not know all the details that might make you turn away.
There is no perfect solution to dating. Online and offline dating methods are both just choices available to stir the pot and see what happens. As Walters explained in his article, humans and their relationships are irrational and unpredictable. It is just not possible for one, the other, or both to be a solution for every person. All we can do is learn from our experiences, learn what we want out of a relationship, and pursue our goals however best suits our personality and individual needs.
Because of the lack of good research on the subject, most of my argument is also constructed on personal experience with using online dating services for many years and thus follows abductive reasoning – my thoughts are no less guesses than Julie's are. I am also strongly biased by the fact that I found my husband on such a service and have experienced how useful it can be in developing a relationship. The lack of good research also makes the argument somewhat weak, like any other argument for or against online dating which rely solely on logic rather than hard data to make a point. Until better research can be conducted and verified, there is not anything to do be done about that issue. The little research that has been done simply compared basic statistics like how likely online dating is to lead to marriage versus offline dating, but such basic information is not widely useful because it does not take into the account the wide variety of relationship types or methods of matching with someone in either environment.
One of the most critical pieces of analyzing this argument was the simple act of asking questions about the material being presented. Particularly in reference to the pros and cons presented in the list, it is very easy to think "according to who?" Why is this a pro instead of a con, or a con instead of a pro? When considering some of the advantages, it is also difficult to avoid wondering how often such an advantage is even useful to someone in the dating world. How many people are even up and actively thinking about their dating life late at night that they need to have 24-hour access to a dating service? Unfortunately, those questions cannot be accurately answered at this time, which means they were mostly used to pick apart the argument and any credibility it had.
This has always been one of my favorite strategies to picking apart any argument to see how well it stands up, and I have learned quite a bit about random things through simple research trying to determine if some statement held true or not. Most recently, I actually used this very same process when analyzing pros and cons arguments about the anti-vaccination campaigns that have been very public recently given the measles outbreak in Washington. As an example, one of the cons listed was that there was a chance of serious side effects from getting a vaccine. What about any other medicine or medical procedure? Does not literally every single medical advance introduce a tiny chance of something going horribly wrong? Do these people forego all medical treatments because everything has a risk? Do they realize that not getting a vaccination has its own inherent risk of contracting the virus and having serious problems – or is that risk just not relevant? All of these questions suggest the con is really just a double standard – they are expressing an excessive amount of concern for the tiny risk from being vaccinated but ignoring the same amount of risk for all other forms of medicine and even the inherent risk of not getting vaccinated at all.
Spira, J. (2013, December 3). Online Dating Vs. Offline Dating: Pros and Cons. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/online-dating-vs-offline_n_4037867. Walters, J. (2011, July 25). Online dating is eroding humanity. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/jul/25/online-dating-love-product.