People returning to dating after a long absence have many questions. A common one: “Is online dating better than traditional dating?”
The question begets more questions, and it’s easy to see why a new dater might get overwhelmed about how to re-enter the dating scene.
For instance, what exactly IS traditional dating? No single method has been the standard long enough to be called traditional.
And what is online dating all about? Where does a newcomer start when there are thousands of dating apps and sites from which to choose? When you sign up, how does it all work?
Despite the questions, there is a simple way to think about dating that will help the newcomer find dating success.
Allow me to explain.
What is Traditional Dating?
Prior to the 1900’s, there was no dating as we know it. Marriages were arranged by families, often with property interests in mind.
Instead of dating, there was courtship. This was the period in which the future couple were introduced and got to know each other under supervision of the parents.
Dating as we know it didn’t start to evolve until the 1900’s.
Helene Ragovin writes in Love, American Style,
“In 1901, a young man who was smitten with a girl would wait for an invitation to come calling at her home. They would likely meet in the parlor, within earshot of a watchful mother or father.
By 1921, a young man would no longer have to play the role of gentleman caller; he could ask the woman out on a date and foot the bill for an evening of dining and dancing. By 1951, a young couple might be “going steady.” In 1971, they might be living together. Today they might simply “hook up” for the night.”
Yet the purpose of dating has always been the same as it was in courtship—to find a partner.
The difference is that today, the idea of a ‘partner’ ranges from the one-night stands of the serial dater at one end of the spectrum, to marriage on the other, and everything in between.
Plus, there are other variables that muddle the notion of ‘traditional dating.’
For example, “traditional” dating could mean something entirely different to a 40 year old man than it does to one in his fifties. That’s how fast things change.
Environment is another factor. A woman in her sixties who grew up in the rural south will almost certainly have a different dating experience than a 60-year-old woman who grew up in New York City.
The “Beginning to Date” video below is a now-quaint look back at what it was like for young people to date in the 1950’s.
What is Online Dating?
The concept of online dating is also rapidly changing. Computer dating began in 1959 when two Stanford students used an IBM mainframe (remember punch cards?) to match 49 pairs of men and women.
Online dating started with Kiss.com in 1994 and Match in 1995. Today, various sources estimate there are more than 2,500 online dating sites and apps. And dating isn’t the only reason people use these sites.
One study on dating apps found that 49% of people use an online dating site to find an exclusive partner. Other reasons given to use dating apps include:
- To have something fun to do (39%)
- To see what the app is like (29%)
- To have casual sex (23%)
- To find non-exclusive romantic partners (20%)
- To boost self-esteem (19%)
- To make platonic connections (19%)
- To cheat on their significant other (17%)
Which brings us back to our question, “Is online dating better than traditional dating?”
It depends. You can see, it’s not so easy to answer.
The idea of “traditional” is subjective and personal. The sheer number of dating sites and reasons for using them defies simple categorization as “online dating.”
Online Dating vs. Traditional Dating
Instead, why not look at all these dating methods with a different perspective.
Dating reminds me of the business world I’m from. Customers research a company and maybe even try out a product before making the purchase. Companies adjust their marketing messages and use many types of advertising to attract the right kind of customers for their products and services. They’re each looking for compatibility.
But ask ten business owners if online marketing is better than traditional networking. All companies want customers, yet you’ll get ten different answers.
That’s because it all depends on who they want as customers, on where their customers can be reached, and on what kind of media they prefer. So, any given business might test dozens of different media channels to reach their customers. For example, online advertising, direct mail, TV, telemarketing, email, salespeople, and so on. Then they go with whatever media works best.
We can look at dating the same way. We all want the same thing—a partner.
Yet everything else will vary:
- The reasons for finding a partner
- Where potential dates hang out and socialize
As with business, there are many channels to use to find the right partner. These include the countless dating apps and sites mentioned above.
Then there are dozens of “traditional” and offline ways to date (whatever “traditional” means to you.) For example, 44 Places Where You Can Meet Singles Over 60 has a comprehensive listing.
Don’t Rule Either One Out
It can feel overwhelming in the beginning. But if you want to find a partner, the key is to take that first step.
Start by trying something you’re most comfortable with. Then try something else.
And don’t rule anything out. Online dating sites are still one of the best ways to find your ideal partner.
I met Daisy online after living across the street from her for years, but never meeting or knowing her. I was brand new to, and a bit uncomfortable with, online dating when I met her. But I’m grateful I took that online plunge.
Don’t limit your resources and avenues for meeting people to date. You might find that one of these “channels” works better for you than you ever expected.