Online Dating is Risky Business

Dating is tricky these days because of the introduction of online dating sites and app based dating and the popularity of these resources. Granted, one can still meet a date by chance or through personal social networks—but the chances of someone never having used one of these resources is slim. Both dating sites and dating apps have grown in popularity, to the extent that, according to Forbes, there are 2,500 dating sites in the United States alone. Additionally, The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that more than 49.7 million Americans have tried online dating—and there are only a reported 54.4 million single people in the US!!  That’s a mere 4.7 million single people who have NOT tried online or app based dating!

There is a huge trend in dating that has been labeled “the hook-up culture”. A survey by Statista, an online statistics, market research and business intelligence portal, revealed that 24% of people use dating sites to find hookups. With that in mind, one should be aware of the underlying motivation of anyone they “meet” (chat with, etc.) online. I believe that there is nothing wrong with hook-up, as long as both adults are consenting and that they behave ethically (I discuss the ethics of non-monogamy in another post).

Because of the increase in popularity of online/mobile dating, researches have dedicated a great deal of time into studying the psychological aspects and effects of these dating resources. One study describes two major types of personalities (or personality traits) that are drawn to sites and apps. First, is what is classified as “impulsivity” (Patton, et al., 1995) or an impulsive personality trait. Research indicates that “[i]mpulsive people may be drawn to dating apps due to the speed with which they can rate people. Impulsiveness has been linked to a variety of risky behaviors (Stanford, et al., 1996) and may be connected to both using the app extensively and quickly meeting people one meets on dating apps (Carpenter and MgEwan, 2018).”

Second is the “sensation seeking” trait. Sensation seeking is conceptualized as “a general need for thrills and excitement [and] a need for change and novelty (Zuckerman, 2002).” Studies report that this trait is also, generally, associated with risky behavior and particularly risky sex. In a research article titled The Players of micro-dating: Individual and gender differences in goal orientations toward micro-dating apps, by Carpenter and MgEwan, they explain that


Using an app that focuses on appearance, and enabling one to quickly and easily meet people who are attractive, may also be associated with traits associated with a higher interest in sex. Kalichman, et al. (1994) explain that sexual sensation seeking focuses the sensation seeking concept of constantly seeking novelty onto sexual experiences such that sexual sensation seeking is predicted to be associated with a desire for varied sexual partners. If dating apps provide an outlet for impulsively seeking a romantic partner, using these apps may only be associated with impulsiveness of sexual sensation seeking. If the impulsiveness is not directed at finding long-term partners but causal sexual encounters, it seems likely that sexual sensation seeking will be a stronger predictor of dating app use. If so, then app users might be people of concern as sexual sensation seeking is also associated with a greater likelihood of risky sex (Kalichman, et al., 1994).

While another study explains that there is an additional orientation (first labeled to describe personality traits in general) among online/app users called the “sociosexual orientation” (Gangestad and Simpson, 1990).

Along similar lines, sociosexual orientation was conceptualized as the extent to which someone has a restricted or unrestricted orientation towards sexual activity (Gangestad and Simpson, 1990). Someone expressing a restricted orientation will only engage in sexual activity in a stable and committed relationship. Someone with an unrestricted orientation, on the other hand, is willing to have sex fairly quickly upon meeting a desirable partner. They conceptualize the variable as a continuous one, albeit one with a bimodal distribution. If possessing a more unrestricted orientation is associated with app use, it would suggest that the move towards quicker and more photo-based matchmaking is more likely to be used by people who wish to use such apps for casual sex, rather than finding long-term partners (Carpenter and MgEwan, 2018).”

While I continue to write this post, I will leave you with a few random statistics to chew on.

In terms of gender breakdown, Statistic Brain found that more than half of online daters are men, while less than half are women. Other studies by GlobalWebIndex and the Pew Research Center had similar results: 62% of dating app users are men, and 13% of American men had used a dating app or site vs. only 9% of American women.

Another fact Statistic Brain found in its research is that 10% of online daters try online dating for 90 days but then cancel their subscription. We think this number could also include those who have met their ideal match, which is why the wanted to leave the dating site. Some reasons for online dating membership cancellations could include that it feels disconnected from real life, all the people and conversations seem the same, it tends to be shallow, and it’s “all about sex.” We could be coming full circle — with people growing numb with online dating and wanting to try old-fashioned or more traditional ways of meeting again.

More than 50% of Americans lie on their profile. A pretty shocking result from an eHarmony survey is that 53% of people lie on their dating profile. Even small exaggerations count as lies. Some of the most common lies happen when people are talking about their height, weight, lifestyle, age, and income.

Over 60% of online daters are already in a relationship. The lies just keep getting bigger — turns out a significant number of people aren’t honest about their relationship status either. One article reports that 62% of online daters are already in a relationship or married (51% vs. 11%, respectively). On Tinder specifically, 42% of users currently have a partner (30% are married, and 12% are in a relationship).

One in 10 sex offenders are on a dating Site!! One of the last biggest takeaways from Statistic Brain’s study is that 10% of sex offenders use online dating to meet new people. In addition, according to the Independent, 3% of online daters are considered psychopaths. Remember to Google your matches and use background-checking sites like BeenVerified.

Online predators commit 16,000 abductions, 100 murders & thousands of rapes a year!! Each year, thousands of abductions and rapes and hundreds of murders are committed on online dating sites. If you suspect someone is behaving illegally, report them to the dating site or app you’re using, notify your local police, and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Of course, the punishment for these crimes (which usually vary by state) are more severe than for those who commit an online dating scam involving money.

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