The Washington Post

As dating apps grow in popularity, people still feel some stigma

Online dating: More and more people are doing it, but no one wants to talk about it. On the record, that is.

A recent Pew study found that 11 percent of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile apps — a figure that was just 3 percent five years ago. Among Internet users who were currently single and looking for a partner, 38 percent had tried online dating.

Yet, according to the Pew study, 21 percent of Internet users agree with the statement: “People who use online dating sites are desperate.” Pew notes that’s an eight-percentage-point decline from 2005. Still, there seems to be lingering judgment about using a smartphone to find someone to love.

“I think people don’t like to admit that they are having trouble in their romantic life,” said Eli Finkel, a social psychology professor at Northwestern University. “That concern is misplaced. It is totally normal to figure out who is compatible for you.”

Finkel, who with several colleagues published a critical analysis of online dating last year, has become a cheerleader of sorts for the practice. “In general, it is a great thing that exists.”

Look no further than your smart phone.

Reggie, a 20-something operations manager for a nonprofit organization — who, like all the dating app users we talked to, preferred to give only his first name and occupation as biographical details when talking about the subject — said he tends to keep online dating out of most in-person conversations. Most of his friends do the same.

“We don’t want to put something that is supposed to be like a dating, personal ad into our real world,” he says. “I think that delineation, that separation from online-date persona and in-person social situations, is a real thing.”

He also separates his online dating from his social-media activity. It’s a form of image management, like his adherence to the “mom rule”: keeping an online presence that he wouldn’t be embarrassed for his mother to see.

Ben, also working at a nonprofit group, said the relative anonymity of dating Web sites, where only other members of the sites can see a fellow user’s name and photo, is a benefit. He doesn’t think we’re at a place yet where potential bosses or girlfriends who might search his name on Google would be open-minded about seeing it tied to Tinder.

“More and more people are having those conversations,” he said. “But we’re still not at the point where everyone is comfortable.”


Hinge in D.C.: In networking hub, mining social capital

Graphic: Looking for Love?

Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.