Why are online dating apps so popular

Dating sites: Why dating portals make it difficult to find the right one

Dating portals and flirting apps make it much easier to get to know each other - and for this very reason make it difficult for some people to find the right partner

Some time ago, a Chinese graduate student named Lin Yu posted a personal ad on the Internet. She typed in what she expected from her future partner. Among other things, he should not be divorced or widowed, have a university degree, should not come from Wuhan City, neither smoke, drink nor gamble, be over five feet tall and be willing to wait a year before the wedding; he also had to play sports, earn more than 50,000 yuan a year, and promise that he would eat at home four nights a week; he should have had at least two, but no more than four girlfriends, be between 26 and 32 years old - and as a zodiac sign neither Virgo nor Capricorn.
This level of detail may seem absurd, but such precisely formulated requirements are not an isolated case in China. Around 200 million singles live in the country with just under 1.4 billion inhabitants. That makes the enormous range of potential partners quickly unmanageable - and apparently leads to the fact that seekers make an effort to pre-sort the candidates as precisely as possible.

It's hardly any different in Germany, even if only around eight million people log into one or more dating portals every month. The market is growing by an estimated ten percent annually, and the commercial providers are making millions in profits. Because many people are willing to pay to find happiness in a partner. In a recent survey, 17 percent of Germans report that they have already met a partner on the Internet (although this could also have happened via social networks). Five percent of Americans who are in a committed relationship have met their significant other online. 91 million people around the world are said to have actively committed themselves to online dating.

Finding a significant other has always been one of the main goals in life for many people. But for a long time single men and women had to be content with the candidates they met in their village or district, in the office, club or among friends. They had to hope that in this environment someone would be found who roughly corresponded to their own ideas. Today, however, a person willing to have a relationship - at least in theory - no longer has to make compromises. Rather, he can register with one or more dating sites and look for his dream partner. In Germany alone, more than 2500 internet portals (dating sites, dating agencies, sex clubs or affair agencies) offer their services when looking for a partner.

A quick night for two or great love

The offer ranges from market leaders such as Parship, eDarling, Elitepartner, LoveScout24 or neu.de to specialized providers who bring together millionaires or dog lovers, science fiction fans, vegetarians or seafarers, tall or obese people, hunters and anglers, asexuals and goths as well as highly sensitive or mustache wearers and their fans. There are services where great love is the goal, others for a quick night for two. Offers in which only women are allowed to initiate contact, and those for Europeans who are looking for a date with an Asian.

And if you are willing to look around internationally, there are many more opportunities open up - because in the USA, for example, the single market on the Internet has become much more differentiated. The searcher can register there on websites whose users suffer from an allergy or a sexually transmitted disease or who want the new person to look like the ex-partner as much as possible. Some Internet exchanges handpick members through personal invitations, while apps bring together frequent flyers who happen to be at the same airport at the same time. And self-declared machos and their admirers have their own dating site as well as people who deal with death professionally - such as undertakers or pathologists.

Love by algorithm

It is not uncommon for dating agencies to promise paradise: that with their help a person can find exactly the companion who best suits him or her. That nobody has to be content with a mediocre relationship anymore.
A number of providers even promise to have found a formula for happiness: a sophisticated algorithm that can be used to filter out the right partner from the seemingly unmanageable range.
However, the reality shows that singles can choose from an infinite number of men and women willing to contact - but still often fail to find the right one.
The British economist Peter Backus wanted to find out a few years ago how likely it is for him to find a suitable partner. Backus, then 30, tried to understand why he had no girlfriend, even though his claims seemed comparatively modest. He wanted a partner who, like him, lived in London, who should be between 24 and 32 years old, who was good looking and who had studied. Backus calculated that around 10,510 women in the UK met these minimum criteria. He then calculated how many of these people did not have a partner, how many could also feel attracted to him and how many of this subset he would get along with sufficiently well. The result: According to his formula, only 26 women in the greater London area were eligible for him. Statistically, Backus calculated that this meant that he would have to go out every evening for 780 years to run into one of them by chance.

Internet love

In order to improve this low probability of meeting the right life partner, the first dating sites on the Internet were launched 20 years ago. Most initially resembled digitized versions of the personals ads in the daily newspapers. Members create profiles in these dating portals, which are still popular today. In it they introduce themselves with photos, information about age, occupation or hobbies and a short self-description. Members can read each other's profiles and contact each other electronically.
The single sites aim either to get to know each other without obligation (in Germany about LoveScout24, neu.de, iLove or DatingCafe). Or they provide contacts for sexual adventures and affairs (for example secret.de, casualsex24.de, Joyclub.de, poppen.de).

In addition, digital agencies such as Parship, ElitePartner, Partnersuche.de or eDarling have established themselves, which actively help a searcher to find a suitable partner for a fee. Those who register with them usually have to fill out a long questionnaire about their biography, interests, values ​​and goals. The online services then use this to develop personality profiles and search for other users whose wishes and characteristics seem to harmonize with them. They then submit the relevant proposals to the members.

Tinder: Swiping for the right partner

The latest development on the market are dating apps for smartphones. These programs allow users to search for contacts in their immediate vicinity at any time and any place via GPS signal. The single service Tinder, for example, uses the name, age and a few photos from the Facebook profile of someone who wants to get to know each other and searches for people interested in a rendezvous within a radius of between two and 160 kilometers. If the program finds someone who seems to fit, it plays each other's picture on the phone for both users. If you like the photo, move it to the right of the screen with one finger to indicate approval. A swipe to the left, on the other hand, means: rejected.
Only when both users express their favor does a match arise - and a digital window opens that enables them to contact each other. This playful approach has made mobile dating apps hugely popular in just a few years. Tinder alone is used by almost ten million people worldwide every day. All digital dating sites have two things in common: They usually offer singles more potential partners than they would likely meet in their entire life. And: They turn the familiar process of getting to know each other on its head.

Online vs real life

In reality, relationships develop according to archaic mechanisms. Researchers have found that many unconsciously recorded sensory impressions play a role, such as the shape of the face, the sound of the voice, the smell. These perceptions are far more important initially
as information about residence, occupation, favorite color, for example. Online, on the other hand, a single has to decide for or against getting to know each other before he has met the potential partner, even before he has been able to collect various sensory impressions. On the other hand, he often already knows numerous details from the life of the other, for example, knows about their political views, is informed about their professional career or their musical preferences.

It is as if a person were to judge whether they would like a ready-made meal if they could only read the calorie information and the list of ingredients on the packaging, according to researchers working with US psychologist Dan Ariely from Duke University, who researches human decision-making processes: "You have a rough idea how it will taste, but only when you try it do you really know."

The agony of choice

In addition, the enormous selection makes the decision difficult. A study showed that the typical user of a dating site sifts through profiles twelve hours a week and reads, writes or replies to contact e-mails. On average, that gives him 1.8 hours of appointments. For a short appointment, users usually spend more than a full working day looking for and contacting. On average, insiders estimate that singles look at 200 profiles each time they log in. Most of them quickly feel overwhelmed by reading all these profiles carefully and weighing them up against each other.

Instead, researchers know that they choose based on superficial criteria. Women often pay particular attention to body size and the economic status of the man; Men on a woman's age. And in many cases, both genders do not make their decision based on how well the profile text is formulated, but primarily on the radiance of the photo and the attractiveness of the person depicted. This shows a mechanism that is deeply anchored in our psyche. By nature, we tend to infer the whole person from someone else's looks. If someone looks attractive, we instinctively suspect that this person would also be smart, competent and trustworthy - even if everyone knows that such assignments are far from always correct.

Shopping mentality when it comes to data

Such false conclusions can of course also be made when two people meet in reality. When it comes to online dating, however, they have a particularly strong impact. Because the selection of potential partners can lead to higher and higher demands. Sociologists have found that it is not uncommon for a real shopping mentality to develop: users only want the best from the large range. However, this attitude has the consequence that pretty young women can hardly save themselves from contact requests, while female singles over 30 are often only contacted by a few men. The view of women is similarly strict: in a dating portal, users rated 80 percent of the men presented there as extremely unattractive. A recent study in the USA showed that around a third of all portal users do not reach a single appointment via a website.

Many singles try to solve this problem by registering with a switching service that also has a computer looking for the best possible partner. There algorithms evaluate which people might fit together. Providers such as ElitePartner, eDarling, be2, partner.de or Parship advertise that they can identify the ideal counterpart in this way.