As the Match.com commercial informs us almost every time that we switch on the TV, 1 in 5 relationships now start online. What’s more, a recent survey conducted by Which? shows that 1 in 4 British adults have used a dating website at some point in their lives. Without a doubt, the online dating industry has expanded massively throughout the last decade; currently valued at more than £2 billion and boasting millions of members globally.
Somewhat surprisingly, the last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of university students and young people turning to these online matchmakers in the hope of romantic success. This contradicts the generally (but not wholly) accurate stereotype of the outgoing, partying student who spends every night in a different club or at a different party, with no shortage of romantic interest. They should surely have no difficulties in the search for love or companionship? There is a taboo surrounding the use student dating sites, such as Dating for Students, Date at Uni and the (slightly tastelessly entitled) FreshMeet Do online daters need to get out more, or is online the new Ziggy’s top floor?
It can be argued that there are many benefits brought by the opportunity to date online. For the introverts or shy personalities among us, it provides the chance to get to know someone without the pressures of eye contact and face-to-face interaction. Not everybody wants to trawl through the bars and clubs for a prospective partner, and dating websites offer an alternative method. The sheer number of profiles on each matchmaking site presents the user with more prospective partners than they are likely to come across in their whole university career, giving hope to the theory of ‘finding the one’.
Another positive of the online dating scene is the ability to ‘suss out’ individuals before that all-important first date. There’s nothing worse than a blind date where you have nothing in common, right? Specialist sites, such as Green Singles, for those who care about the environment, and Christian Connection, with its religious focus, allow you to find people who share your interests and values, giving the date a much greater chance of success.
So far dating sites seem to be the answer to every lonely uni student’s prayers. However, the risks of online dating are pretty serious. Some websites do not properly vet their members, with 2 in 5 people having found fake dating profiles online, and according to a recent Which? Survey, 1 in 5 having been asked for money by someone they have been contacting. At least at that awkward blind date with your best friend’s brother’s mate, you know he will probably turn out to be okay.
Personally, I would never think of dating websites as ideal for young people or students. University is a time in our lives when our friendship circles and connections are continually expanding. If you want to meet someone new, as a friend or as a prospective partner, then join a new society or club. Then you will be guaranteed to have something in common to talk about, and regular meetings will ensure that you have plenty of time together to give the relationship a chance to grow.
Arguably, dating websites do have some value in our society, but they are probably more ideal for those individuals who have less free time, or less opportunity to meet new people. For students, enjoy being young, get out as much as you possibly can, and worry about forming those life-long ebonds with another person later on in life.