Love in a time of dating apps 28 May , 2018

Having a tiny, but powerful computer in our pockets all day has transformed our lives –how we think, remember things, shop, socialise, and, of course, how we love. Understanding how humans use and interact with technology is key to building a strong digital strategy that’ll resonate with people. With Valentine’s Day looming, we wanted to explore the way people are using tech to find love (and what that love even means!)

No judgement here

Anecdotally anyone who’s been using online dating platforms over the past few years will be able to tell you that it has gone entirely mainstream. Whereas before it was a collection of first adopters (think advertising types who were playing around with Snapchat before it even had filters), the stigma around online dating has fallen away entirely. This is corroborated in a recent Pew study that found that though it was viewed as a “subpar way of meeting people” in 2005, the tide has turned. Today, they report, “nearly half of the public knows someone who uses online dating or who has met a spouse or partner via online dating”.

Interestingly, quite a bit of this growth happened among 55- to 64-year-olds. Today, 12% of this age group report ever using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6% in 2013. Another recent study from Kapersky, that also surveyed South Africans, found that as many as 1 in 3 people are dating online – the majority of them made up of 25- to 34-year-olds (43%).

Other standout groupings that Kapersky found include people that class themselves as the head of a company or business owners who make up one-in-ten (11%) of the online dating population; and people who are married or living with a partner make up 31% of those venturing online to meet potential love interests.

Mixed signals

Clearly not everyone is seeking the same thing on the proliferation of platforms promising connection! According to Kapersky’s study, the majority of people (48%) said they’re mostly using it for “fun”. Only 19% are looking for a partner, and even fewer (11%) are looking for someone they’d want to marry. At the other end of the spectrum, 13% of respondents said they were only looking for sex.

Gender differences also come into play. For example, men are much more likely to use online dating for sex (18% vs 5%), whereas “looking for new friends” (41%) and checking up on whether their partner is cheating (5%) are sited equally by both genders as motivation.

Interestingly Pew also found that about a third of people who are dating online are keeping those activities very much in the virtual realm – a problem retailers have no doubt also experienced! “Two thirds of online daters (66%) have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or dating app. That is a substantial increase from the 43% of online daters who had actually progressed to the date stage when we first asked this question in 2005.” But, this means that a whole third of online daters haven’t actually gone on dates – proving how tricky it can be to get online behaviour to translate to real world actions.

So although Pew reports that 5% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online, there is seemingly still a gap between online intentions and real world effect. This is something we wrangle with for our clients every day – translating digital interactions into happy, substantial relationships. Get in touch if you’re keen to find out how you can fit into people’s daily lives and maybe even live happily ever after:

Read the full Kapersky research report here and check out Pew’s insights here.

Subscribe to