Lately, powerful voices in media have been suggesting that traditional courtship has been taken off life support and officially pronounced dead. While I am not sure if these pundits went to med school, the dating experiences of young women today suggest that their diagnosis may not be entirely in error. According to the end of courtship argument, technology has drastically changed dating behavior, driving the death of courtship as we once knew it. I, however, would like to respectfully disagree and argue that courtship may just have become segmented, rather than dead.
Contrary to popular belief, technology has influenced the way we date for years. With the invention of the telephone, men could communicate with women remotely rather than pay a physical visit to her home. As cars filled American highways, men and women could go on dates free from their parents' supervision. While facilitating communication and dating behavior, technology, such as personal advertisements in newspapers and video dating, also helped individuals find their romantic partners.
The latest technology to influence our dating behavior is the exciting world of online dating.
Online dating is a growing means to meet a romantic partner. One in four American singles have used an online dating site to find a significant other. The online dating market is also growing and apparently successful. A recent study indicates that online dating was the second most popular means by which individuals met their partners between 2007 and 2009.
At the same time, individuals monitoring courtship's mortality rates suggest that online dating facilitates an epidemic of casual dating in which drinks are an audition for dinner. Sites such as Grouper allow individuals to go on dates with up to two friends in tow. Group dating removes the pressure associated with having one-on-one conversations and allows for interaction with more than one person at the same time. Arguably, the Grouper model directly discourages commitment by allowing individuals to select between bachelor/bachelorette one, two or three.
Other sites facilitate hookup culture's transition from college to young adulthood. For example, Tinder provides users with a "hot or not" model in which users evaluate whether to go on a date with someone solely based on their picture. While judgments regarding appearance often motivate us to approach an individual in "real life," individuals who are searching for a more substantial relationship might be interested in learning more about their prospective partner's background on an online dating site. Interactions between individuals meeting through Tinder may thus take on a sexual tone very quickly. Moreover, Tinder caters to a demographic largely embedded in a hookup culture, college students and recent graduates. Given this type of model and demographic, I believe that Tinder and similar mobile dating apps may be limited to individuals who are only interested in one thing.
According to recent estimates, there are approximately 2,500 active online dating sites. Whether individuals want to find someone who shares their faith or correspond with prison inmates, there is a site for everyone. In this market, online dating sites are products and the men and women who use them are consumers. Furthermore, focus group and interview data indicate that individuals are aware of dating sites' reputations. For example, many individuals believe that JDate users are more serious about finding a marriage partner. Given the many dating site options available and the well-known reputations of the sites, individuals who choose to use Tinder, Grouper and comparable dating sites arguably know what those sites are selling.
While the casual, no-strings-attached dating sites may receive a lot of attention due to their unconventional design, many individuals in their late 20's and early 30's are not interested in the casual dating behaviors promoted by these sites. Traditional courtship and dating behavior arguably are simply segmented today, rather than dead altogether.