Ah, modern love.
These days, it often starts with a screen. Our lightning-fast, instant connections have dramatically altered many aspects of our everyday lives, the world of dating and romantic relationships among them. Whether for good or for ill, the Internet, Smartphones, and overall technological growth have made falling in love in 2018 lightyears different than it must have been in 1918.
Back then, one’s social circle was much, much smaller. “Courting” was the term for dating, and marriage generally happened much quicker. In fact, the idea of “dating around” was unheard of. We’ve gained much more freedom, choice, and possibilities in the past century, and the Internet has changed things more than ever.
How can we measure the impact of the Internet on our love lives---on how we find love, and how we make choices about who to date or who to marry? Has the Internet transformed the way we fall in love? Let’s take a closer look.
Is love right in our hands?
The Science of Falling in Love
Is it a bolt of lightning? A shot from Cupid’s arrow? Perhaps it’s like fireworks, or dancing among the stars.
There have been thousands of attempts to define and describe what it feels like to fall in love. There’s no doubt that love is a powerful, even magical experience, and for humans, it is one of the driving forces in our lives. It’s no wonder that love has been written about for centuries with such vigour, and no surprise that it continues to be thought of as a mythical, complex notion.
The dramatic, romantic words of love may describe what happens in the human heart, but the science of falling in love is far less poetic. Primarily a biological and chemical process that occurs within in our brains, love is essentially a series of well-timed hormone secretions that enable us to spark an attraction, grow closer to someone, and eventually, to bond with them.
Attraction typically leads the way in the dating game, causing us to identify and select potential partners from among the herd. Interaction with these individuals releases hormones in our bodies that relate to the “reward centres” of the brain. In other words, when you’re on a date with a good-looking man or woman, that dopamine and norepinephrine coursing through your body lets you know this is a happy or pleasurable experience---one you should repeat. As you move forward in your relationship, these hormones continue to be produced in high amounts, leading to that giddy, euphoric state of “falling in love.” The pleasure centres activated in your brain confirm that you’re on the right track. This is when lovers seem to be walking on the clouds and when certain physical responses (such as sweaty palms or a racing heart) are most likely to occur. Interestingly, this period also corresponds with a drop in serotonin levels, which accounts for those “can’t eat can’t sleep” problems that love often brings. Needless to say, when it comes to love, we may be subject to the whimsy of our biology!
It should come as no surprise that the Internet has significantly changed dating in the modern age. While many of us still meet potential partners at work, through hobbies, or in our communities, the popularity of online dating has made this one of the major ways we now begin relationships. Instead of in-person, we now mingle online.
Still, falling in love is falling in love. It’s not that our biological and chemical reactions are different today. The reactions themselves are unchanged, but the path that leads us to them may be.
Much of our initial assessment of a potential sweetheart no longer takes place face-to-face. Instead, we make judgements based on quick snippets of information, photos, or based on a virtual “match.” This may mean we’re now thinking more with our heads as opposed to our hearts---or looking more critically at partners instead of allowing pure attraction to guide us. Or perhaps the opposite is true: if we’re “swiping left” on a dating app, we are only relying on a quick measure of appearances to be our guide.
Either way, there’s a sense that there are more fish in the sea when it comes to online dating. No longer are you limited to a small pool of potential partners, but you have a nearly unlimited supply at your fingertips. A catalog of lovers awaits, and you have the chance to peruse at your leisure.
The chemicals of love in action.
Our Brains on the Internet
It’s not just love and dating that the Internet have impacted, it’s our very brains themselves. With a repository of endless knowledge just a click away, our approach to information has definitely been altered. In so many ways, this is fantastic, because it means knowledge is more readily available than ever before.
The instantaneous nature of the Internet, however, may also be spoiling us a wee bit. We’ve grown accustomed to getting information FAST, or being entertained on-demand by videos, images, memes, and other quick boosts of enjoyment. There’s definitely a feeling of instant gratification that the Internet can provide, and many of us feel nearly addicted to it.
It may not shock you to know that chemistry plays a role here, too. Research suggests that a “Like” or “Share” on social media, can produce a rush of dopamine in our brains---much like when we’re falling in love! These temporary highs are so easy to get, too, with a simple click. Knowing this, it is no wonder that finding love online has grown so exponentially! The process of searching for a mate can now provide double the dopamine---a boost from finding an attractive person, and a boost just from using the wonderful Internet.
But it’s more than that, of course. There are other reasons that online dating is so popular:
- It’s perfect for the busy professional
Our fast-paced lives often leave little time for meeting new people. Online dating can be the solution. Singles can use apps and dating sites via mobile phones, so they can look for love on-the-go: during their morning commute, on their lunch break, or whenever it suits. Many apps also rely on photos or quick snippets. This approach shows individuals “at a glance” which could speed up the initial “rating” process.
- It can be a “low pressure” way of dating
Online dating is a godsend to the shy single. There’s a strong sense of safety and security when you’re behind a screen, and a feeling you don’t have to “put yourself out there” quite as much. Of course, love requires vulnerability at some point, but online dating means you can get some of the first date awkwardness out of the way before meeting in person.
Through online dating sites, the pressure is also reduced. It’s easier to reject someone virtually than in person, and singles are likely to feel less guilt about these quickly made decisions.
- You may have more information available on a potential love
What does a dating profile say about a person? A great deal! There’s certainly an advantage to having extra knowledge about a potential lover prior to meeting them face-to-face. A dating profile (or a more extensive assessment like those on Match.com) can speed up the compatibility factor. You may be able to determine more quickly if you and another might make a good pair. This saves you precious time, helping you find the love of your life sooner.
It’s not just fast and easy, online dating gets results just like traditional ways of connecting. A 2017 study showed that 19% of brides had met their partners online! This means that not only is online dating extremely popular, but that it is effective, leading to long-term partnerships and marriage.
Online dating just might lead you down the aisle and to the altar!
Dating Apps: The Good & the Bad
With all the benefits of online dating, there has to be some downsides, right?
Certainly. There’s a lack of a personal touch in some ways. Apps such as Tinder have received various criticisms; one such notion is that they are programming us to see other people as disposable. The act of swiping left or right on those you deem attractive or not could be seen as dismissive---as reducing individuals to a mere face on a screen.
Other opinions suggest that online dating is filled with deception. It’s easy to embellish an online dating profile, or even to lie outright. Fortunately, most people seem to err on the side of truth in their profiles, though many admit to small white lies about height or weight. It’s important to take any such information online with a grain of salt, and an in-person meeting will always reveal much more about a potential partner’s personality. And always keep safety at top of mind when it comes to online dating, keeping to public places on your first meeting and listening to your intuition.
It’s also possible that online dating can make one more “picky.” Sometimes having an endless number of choices can have a negative effect, making us more prone to dismiss partners out of hand, or causing us to become more rigid in our expectations. As with anything, keeping an open mind is always an important element of a successful experience.
Finding the Human Element
Online dating can be beneficial, provided that we as people ensure that we don’t neglect the human element. This means prioritising personality and compatibility above appearance. This means meeting in person and giving potential partners a real chance. And this means spending time offline and in genuine connection when you can.
On the whole, it is evident that online dating is a good thing for our world. People can connect more easily than ever before, which means many who would not have found relationships otherwise can now enjoy romance and companionship more easily. The growth of online dating also shows that we as a people are comfortably adapting to the changing times. The world is going online, and our relationships are too.
So many happily ever afters have come from people meeting their significant other online. Just read these stories of real love. Connections and relationships take work, no matter how you find them, but our access to the world via technology makes it easier to start these relationships----and hopefully find true love.
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