I'll preface this blog post by saying that this blog post is meant to highlight trends in America in the 2005-2015 era. This post isn't meant to be a 100% accurate, definitive truth about dating. There are millions of women who will say this doesn't apply to them, and that's right. I acknowledge this. Rather, this post is meant to articulate the changes online dating has brought to a significant percentage of women in America. Here we go:
Before the Internet became commonplace in America, American women generally met men in one of two ways: out at a bar, or through a referral. In the last few years, online dating has exploded on mobile devices and has become a major channel through which men and women connect. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll outline some of the key differences between online dating, meeting women out at bars, and referrals that I’ve observed as a single male in my mid twenties living in Austin, TX.
Defenses - women generally have their defenses up when they’re out at bars at night. They know men are out to hit on them, that most men are trashy, and as a result, women explicitly choose to play “hard to get.” This is entirely rational behavior given the general male populace. Contrast this with online dating, in which there’s no need to have one’s defenses up. Women can choose who they want to speak to online, and block those whom they don’t. Although women can always end a conversation when out at a bar, it’s a lot harder to leave a physical, in-person conversation due to social pressure and logistical space constraints than to simply hit the “block” button on a mobile app.
Solo vs groups - as a man, it’s dramatically more difficult to approach a group of women rather than just one. This makes it very difficult to get one-on-one time with the woman I’m trying to speak with, simply because she’s with a group of friends. Women rarely go out alone. But online, all conversations happen in one-on-one settings. This enables men to speak to women who they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, and conversely allows women to speak to men who they otherwise wouldn’t have spoken to.
Inversely, women act differently individually than they do in groups. When they’re out with friends, there is a certain level of group-think at play. The woman generally follows the wishes of the collective group, even if she would prefer not to. Similarly, women will speak differently with men when they know their friends are around than when friends aren’t around. A woman may choose to flirt less with a man because she knows her friends are around than if her friends weren’t.
Power to choose - women can choose who they want to have conversations with online. Although this is technically true out at bars, in practice women have little control over who they speak when they’re out. Through the course of a night, any number of men may approach a woman. Women are free to reject the men, but aren’t typically going up to speak to men. There are exceptions, but in general, women are waiting to be hit on. But online, services like Tinder and Bumble explicitly force women to opt into the conversation before the conversation even starts. This means women don’t waste their time with men who they don’t want to, and vice versa. Rejecting a group of men in person is substantially more difficult than it is to reject a single man online.
Similarly, online dating makes it much easier for women to proactively reach out to men that they’d like to speak to. Although women can always talk to a man out a bar, it’s much more difficult to approach a strange man at a bar than it is online. Moreover, since women aren’t expected to speak to strange men out at bars, women have less practice talking to strangers at bars than men do, compounding the problem further.
Online dating radically changes the dating process. Rather than going out and hoping to be hit on, women can very proactively manage the "top of the funnel" in their dating lives by leveraging technology. Women can manage this process discreetly, with no external pressure, motivations, or constraints. Specifically, online dating empowers women to: talk to more men, talk to more men that they would like to speak to, quickly filter out the men that they don’t want to speak to, speak to men without the social pressure that friends exert on them, and to reach out to men that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Although apps like Tinder have created a perception that online dating exists only to support "hook ups," this is patently false. There are many desirable characteristics of online dating, and that's exactly why men and women alike have adopted dating apps like Tinder so quickly.