GENEVA, Switzerland — The fast-paced world of online dating would seem to be a difficult place to make meaningful connections for many people. Despite that perception, a new study finds couples who meet through smartphone dating apps are actually more likely to stay together.
Researchers from the University of Geneva say online daters have stronger long-term relationship goals than their peers who hook up in more traditional ways, such as at the office or meeting at a bar.
The Swiss study notes that Tinder and digital rivals like Bumble, Match, and Plenty of Fish are often criticized for fueling casual sex. Their findings however, contend that spreading a wider net increases the chances of settling down with “Mr. or Mrs. Right.”
An analysis of more than 3,000 adults in Switzerland revealed couples who meet on an app are more motivated by the idea of living together. Study lead author Dr. Gina Potarca calls this “a trial period prior to marriage.”
“It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40 percent,” Potarca says in a university release.
From online dating to family making?
Researchers also discovered women who find their partners through an app have greater desires and intentions to have children than their peers who meet partners in-person. Despite fears concerning a deterioration in an online match’s quality over time, the study finds dating app couples are just as sexually and socially satisfied as others.
More and more people access dating apps every year. The coronavirus pandemic has only increased their popularity as millions look for a connection while staying in quarantine.
“The internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” Dr. Potarca explains. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.”
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, add to increasing evidence dating apps boost the chances of compatibility and may even reduce the risk of divorce.
“Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship,” the University of Geneva researcher says. “Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case.”
Researchers looked at 3,235 participants in a Swiss government family survey who were in a relationship and had met their partner in the last decade. The most committed to sharing a home tended to be those who had met online rather than in a non-digital environment.
“The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term,” Dr. Potarca notes. “But given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage.”
Making dating simpler
Dating websites, the more complex predecessors to dating apps, mainly attract people over the age of 40 and divorcees looking for romance, according to the Swiss team. Dr. Potarca says apps have eliminated many of the lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and tedious personality tests websites ask users to fill out when creating a profile.
“This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population.”
The study also reveals these apps play an important role in modifying the composition of couples by making them more diverse. In particular, this applied to highly educated women and less educated men getting together. Potarca suspects this may have something to do with the selection process being more visual on apps.
Since users can easily connect with partners in their immediate region, but also in other spaces as they move around, the apps make it easier to meet people more than 30 minutes away. Study authors say this is leading to an increase in long-distance relationships, especially during COVID.
“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” Dr. Potarca concludes.
SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.