Online dating sites and apps are transforming relationships. More than 10 percent of American adults – and almost 40 percent of people who identify as “single and looking” – are using online dating websites and apps.
But what might someone from the 19th century think about this unique fusion of technology and romance?
In the late 1800s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a lot to say about love. Arguing that society was heading toward nihilism – that is, a world without meaning, morals and values – Nietzsche thought that romantic love was frivolous, with friendship acting as a much stronger foundation for relationships.
From a Nietzschean perspective, the rise of dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Grindr that encourage us to “swipe” or judge potential lovers in a nanosecond could be cited as examples of a society that has become obsessed with pleasure and instant gratification.
Nietzsche also said that instinctive judgments are misleading because they “pronounce their Yes and No before the understanding can speak.” Furthermore, to act impulsively is decadent and hedonistic, and these are “signposts to nihilism.”
So does the rise of online dating in our culture signal an embrace of self-indulgence? And does it come at the expense of long-term relationships?
The research is mixed, but a few dominant themes emerge, including findings showing that “swiping right” might not be the best way to find a true match.
Tinder certainly isn’t killing romance – at least, that of the ephemeral kind.
More choices, more relationships, and more socializing open up new kinds of opportunities that wouldn’t have existed without dating apps and websites. A 2012 study found that the Internet has allowed users to find partners more easily, especially homosexuals and middle-aged people who operate in a “thin market.”
The big question is whether marriages that originate online work out in the long run. Here, the research is mixed. Some studies suggest that American marriages that begin online are slightly less prone to collapse than those who met offline. Other studies find the opposite.
Nonetheless, there’s an inherent problem with how these online relationships begin – at least, from a Nietzschean perspective.