(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

by Jillian Torre

College senior Erica* found Mike, a hotel kitchen manager and fitness competitor, on OKCupid. After more than a month of texting and getting to know each other, they met in person.

They spent the day hanging out at a marina before going to dinner and ending the night at a comedy club. Both seemed to enjoy each other’s company, but it wasn’t until Mike kissed Erica at the end of the night that she realized there wasn’t much chemistry. When he contacted her a few days later, she gently let him down.

This is one of Erica’s successful online dating stories. She once never heard back from a date because he claimed she lied about her weight on her profile.

Dating has come a long way since the days of matchmakers and arranged marriages. Tevye, the traditionalist patriarch from “Fiddler on the Roof,” would have a heart attack if he could see how people find potential significant others today.

From meeting online to communicating via text message, it seems the days of courting are long gone. Communication technology has altered the romantic process, and maybe not for the better.

The first change in this process is finding a potential partner. If you wanted to meet eligible singles ten years ago, you’d call your friends, get dressed up, and make your way to the local bar. Today, you just pull out your phone or laptop and message the first cutie you see.

Though meeting someone virtually may not be ideal, online dating does offer some things a bar might not. According to “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science,” online dating offers “access, communication, and matching.”

Access gives users thousands of profiles to view and to connect with, unlike the limited number of people a bar would offer. If you don’t like the first person you talk to, throw that fish back in the sea and click next. Online dating also offers various forms of virtual interaction with others. Lastly, online dating websites use algorithms to select potential compatible partners. But how accurate can a formula be when it comes to the most illogical concept there is: love?

In a survey distributed to people between the ages of 18 and 29, nearly 30 percent admitted to having tried online dating, and over 20 percent said they met the last person they dated either online or through a dating app, such as Tinder.

“It’s kind of a safer option. There’s not that much risk involved in it,” Erica said. “If you meet somebody online and you don’t like them, you just don’t have to talk to them. Whereas if you meet somebody organically in some place that you normally go, you’ll see them again, and that just creates an awkward situation.”

Like traditional dating, online dating has its difficulties too. Finding the total package can be a challenge. Free and informal services, like Plenty of Fish and Tinder, can have a lot of people who are only looking for casual hook ups. “The people that are attractive are on there for sex, and the people that are on there for good reasons are the ones that you would never in a million years want to be with,” said Erica.

The next step in any online relationship is getting to know each other. This is typically done through texting or messaging on the dating service. The riskier person might dare to video chat.

“Dating culture has evolved into a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a Cold War spy to interpret,” one online dater told the New York Times. And if that isn’t hard enough, emoticons, textual portrayals of a writer’s facial expressions, are now thrown into the mix as a new form of flirting. “What did he mean by that smiley face with a wink? What should I write back?”

Learning about someone through short, typed-out messages can only do so much. Sure, he may know she watches Grey’s Anatomy and majors in anthropology, but he doesn’t know her personality. How will he know she likes corny jokes and what her laugh sounds like? How will she know he has an extreme amount of energy and talks a mile a minute? Some things can only be learned in person, and isn’t it those small things that make someone fall in love with a person?

Not to mention how unromantic tech speak is. There’s nothing like receiving a text that says “hey” or “sup.” In the days of love letters, men would take their time composing a sweet and caring message to the women they were pursuing. Today, guys will send a quick and thoughtless, “What are you up to?” But why should they put time into it when girls are responding to “sup” and “hey?” “If you want to date someone who takes you on real dates, then don’t respond to 10 p.m. ‘sup’ texts,” advised Kashmir Hill in a Forbes.com article.

It may be hard to believe, but if you asked for someone’s number ten years ago, you’d have to pick up the phone and call him or her the next day. There was no texting “Hey, it’s Matt from the bar.” And before cell phones, that number you’d call was a house phone that any family member might answer.

Texting has also changed how those in relationships communicate. Over 30 percent of 18 to 29 year olds said they mostly communicate with their significant other through text or instant message.

In the past, the first date was when you learned what someone likes and dislikes, what he does for a living, and how she spends her free time. The only information you’d be able to gather prior to meeting would come from a mutual friend, if there were one. Today, all of this information is known before the first date. A quick Google and Facebook search can provide you with more information about someone than a first date can.

With the small talk being done beforehand, what is there to talk about on the date? Erica believes this makes it easier because she already knows common interests they can talk about. Does this make the first date more serious than it was in the past? Is the first date more of a second date or is it a test to see if there’s a connection?

Millenials no longer use the word “date,” but instead, they use “hang out.” It isn’t uncommon to find a college student who has been in multiple relationships but who has never been on a traditional date. The dinner and a movie tradition seems to have gone out of style among the “hook up generation.” Over 95 percent of this age group answered “yes” when asked if a potential partner ever asked them to “hang out.”

The dating world has become more casual since the invention of cell phones and the Internet, and it will continue to change as new technology is developed. For some, this may be a good thing, but for the old fashioned, the future doesn’t look so promising.


*Name has been changed