Did you know there were some 270 million dating app users globally as of January 2021? This number is projected to keep growing as more and more singles look for love in the digital realm. Over the years, the online dating world has evolved from something that was often ridiculed and looked down upon, to something pretty much everyone seems to be doing. With more users than ever before, many are curious about how it became so, what fueled the fire, and the pros and cons of searching for “Mr/Mrs Right” or Mr/Mrs Right Now” online.

The history of online dating

Many moons ago, ‘dates’ would be set up by well-meaning parents and closely chaperoned. Each culture and country has its own traditions around finding love, some simple, and some verging on the absurd.

For example in 17th-century Wales, men would carve a spoon out of wood, adorned with hearts and present it to the object of their affections. Men in Greece and Rome were a little more pro-active however, favoring chariot races, duels, and grueling interviews with the family of the bride to be. One king made his daughter’s suitors compete for a whole year to win her hand in marriage. In the Netherlands in the 19th Century, a prospective couple was allowed to share a sack and spend the night together with absolutely no hanky panky. This was to give them a chance to get to know each other and see if they were compatible on a personal level.

Thankfully things moved on. By the 20th Century, lonely individuals would leave personal ads in local newspapers in the hope their soulmate would stumble across it. Soldiers in WWII would post ads for “penpals” in the hope they would find a wife for when the war ended.

By 1960, people had become suspicious of dating ads but some students at Harvard had invented the world’s first computer dating service. They would fill out questionnaires, pay a $3 fee, and get matches based on their responses. This is a system that is still in use today, albeit in a slightly upgraded format.

Then came the internet. The 1990s saw the widespread use of the internet and online dating became a thing. Bulletin boards, newsgroups, and chat rooms became hunting grounds for suitors of every kind.

Then in the mid-2000s, the concept of online dating sites and apps solidified. Over the last 15 years, online dating apps have grown in popularity and people are happy and proud to use them. Of course, there are some hiccups along the way, but in affairs of the heart, that is to be expected!

Pros and cons

Speaking of hiccups, what exactly are the pros and cons of dating? It seems that one of the main issues that people report is ghosting. But what is ghosting and why do people ghost? It refers to a type of behavior that engages someone in conversation, often for a long time, and then does a disappearing act. Usually, a friendship or potentially romantic relationship has begun to develop and the couple may have met up, or planned to. Then *poof* one side of the chat disappears into thin air, never to be heard of again. A bit like a ghost!

But there are plenty of plus points. Online dating allows users to explore the wider area and search further afield than just their local neighborhood. It means singletons don’t have to rely on just bumping into someone in the supermarket, or being introduced to a friend of a friend. It means they can cast their net much wider, and sift through those who aren’t suitable. Online dating also means that people don’t have to go on any awkward blind dates and have a chance to check out what people look like and to engage in conversation until they are comfortable to meet. Alternatively, for those looking for a rather fast-paced relationship, it can provide for that as well.

But who knows what the future will hold? There has been so much advancement in the last 10 years when compared to the previous 1000. We can likely expect to see greater integration of AI into the search and match process, improving matches and learning from your swipes and feedback. Furthermore, VR and AR dates could soon be a thing. This means you might not even need to leave your home to go on a first date, meeting in the virtual realm until you are sure they are the person for you!