Dating in the digital age: Navigating love, scams and social media chaosJan 29, 2024 10:26AM ● By Adam Cochran
Having been married for nearly 30 years, I can’t imagine what it would be like to date as a grown-up in the age of social media. But for this month’s column, I decided to research and report on the dynamics of dating and evolving relationships in a world where almost everyone you encounter likely has a social curriculum vitae published on Facebook or other social media.
While I am far from an expert in online dating or using social media for romantic exploration, my approach will cater to folks like me—outsiders seeking to comprehend how this interconnected world functions.
The internet certainly opened the floodgates for new ways to interact and build relationships, but it was the smartphone that changed culture, traditions and expectations for using technology for flirting, courting and maintaining romantic relationships.
Dating and matchmaking services have always leveraged the latest technology, but before smartphones, technology didn’t do much more than allow users to see video, read bios and possibly receive matches based on algorithms.
Smartphones gave everyone the ability to instantly capture photos and videos, curate and maintain their online persona and engage with others in various forums.
The creation of dating and matchmaking apps has empowered smartphone users in their quest for love, allowing them to invest as much time, money and dopamine as they desire in the pursuit of romance. However, not all dating apps are created equal, and they aren’t necessarily intended to be the same way.
Rather than exploring all of the popular apps, I feel it’s better to explore how apps and technology are commonly used in finding, dating and courting through the smartphone’s ability to manipulate time and space in social relationships.
Perhaps the most important concept to understand about modern technology-assisted dating is that it’s culturally acceptable to date without intending to commit to anything more than showing up for a date. Interestingly, there are matchmaking and mingling platforms tailored for individuals who may not even have any intention of meeting in real life.
The diversity in apps and platforms extends beyond various types of social interactions to include those catering to specific demographics, cultures and lifestyles. And each platform has users with different intentions and expectations.
SCAMS, TROLLS & JERKS
Should you suddenly find yourself single and ready to mingle, it’s important to talk to peers and do some research before downloading Tinder, Hinge or Match and filling out your profile. Even platforms targeted at those ready for long-term relationships have members who are looking to scam, score or manipulate others.
Just like off-line socializing, there are jerks, egotists and abusers on all dating platforms. Each platform has some unofficial guidelines or practices that can help you steer clear of weirdos and bad guys. Anyone who has been active on a given platform for a few weeks will know what those red flags are and they will help you identify them.
Essentially, there are three types of people that almost everyone wants to avoid in online dating: bona fide jerks, catfishers and scammers.
“Bona fide jerks” isn’t a technical term, but it’s the most fitting description. These people may only be looking to “hook up,” seek attention in the forms of favors or praise, or simply lack appropriate communication and behavior skills.
Catfishers are people who pretend to be someone they’re not. Some catfishers have a motive, such as a scams or blackmail, while others are just trolls who get their kicks from psychologically messing with people.
Scammers are the same wherever you go. There are numerous romance scams out there, but they all have the same motive—they want to trick you into sending them money.
Romance scams often involve individuals portraying themselves in specific scenarios, such as women claiming to be single parents with sick children, or rich handsome men looking to escape from something they’ve been wrongly accused of, or someone playing the long game to scam a person out of as much as they can in gifts, money, trips or other favors.
It seems strange that online dating would be so complicated, considering that it’s never been so easy to research a stranger online. Plus, technology should make it easier to find someone who is compatible, especially if geography isn’t a limiting factor in your search.
However, humans are more complicated than machines. Even in real life, people tend to present themselves differently in social situations. The combination of social media, online dating apps and the challenges posed by texting (the least effective form of communication) creates a perfect storm of chaos in romantic relationships that isn’t for the faint of heart.
But if you’re seeking your soulmate, the internet provides a comprehensive and financially feasible way for you to begin that search.