Online Dating-10 Years Ago Vs. Today

If you're considering a return to online dating after trying it in the '90s, a lot has changed since then! Here are four positive developments from the past decade you should know about.

By Laura Schaefer

id you try online dating once? Ask yourself: How long ago was that? Online dating is evolving, and it isn't the same animal it was in the late nineties — or even the years shortly after the turn of the century. Social networking, smartphones, and people's changing attitudes have all converged to give the whole thing a fresh approach. If you're thinking about jumping in again, here's what you should know before proceeding:

1. Online dating has grown in both popularity and acceptance.
People are more accepting of the idea of online dating today than they have ever been. Since we all do many things now that we might not have done 10 years ago online — from sharing pictures of our newborn nieces and nephews on social networking sites to paying our bills — there is zero stigma. Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, columnist for the Washington Post Express and author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends, says: "Online dating has truly exploded from a
Three things about online dating that haven't changed:
1. Successful online daters know to take it slow. Even though online dating can feel like a shortcut, it really isn't. Online dating sites offer an introduction — but it's up to you to take the time to really get to know a new person. Dr. Bonior says, "Just like trying to meet someone in a bar, a perfect connection might not happen immediately. But the more time you put in — and the more real you can be — the more likely you are to connect with someone who really gets you."

2. If you want to meet someone special, honesty is crucial. Be honest with yourself about who you are and what you want; then, be honest with the people you meet online. As Dr. Fisher notes, "If your goal is to meet someone who might end up as your girlfriend or boyfriend, all the research shows that honesty is key. I'm not saying that you have to be honest to a fault, but active deception or lying is not a good way to start something special."

3. You have to keep an open mind. Online dating can lead to more than one sort of new relationship. "If you look at online dating as casting a wide net where you may meet a new friend, business associate or find your dream date, you'll enjoy the experience more," advises Spira.
decade ago. As the amount of people who use it has increased exponentially, the dating pool has gotten much more diverse and high-quality, meaning there is much more chance of [singles] meeting someone compatible." Not only has online dating grown as far as the overall number of users, there are also many more sites to choose from, more gender balance, and more options for connecting. Julie Spira, an online dating expert and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online, adds: "If you're just returning to online dating, you'll be happy to see that the services have changed and made it easier for you to find love online."

2. Accessing the Internet has gotten more convenient.
Online daters used to have to run home to check their account to see if someone had sent a message or winked at their profile. All that has shifted as a result of mobile dating sites accessed via smartphone. Now it is possible to plan a coffee date when you're away from home due to a crazy work schedule or traveling in a completely different city. "This trend will continue to grow as we become more reliant on our mobile phones," notes Spira.

3. People are a bit more web-savvy with their information now.
According to Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Canada and coauthor of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Chemistry of Love, "More and more of our lives are online, which means that our identity and privacy are things we have to monitor carefully. As we become more technologically advanced, how we view the process and protect ourselves is something that will become more important." In other words, people are more web-savvy than ever before, and they're using all the tools available to ensure they have a good experience with online dating. Don't be surprised if people you meet online want to spend some time instant-messaging with you before agreeing to an actual in-person meeting.

4. Online daters have embraced texting in a big way.
Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type and Chief Scientific Advisor for observes, "I'm amazed at the reliance of texting in online dating. Texting seems to be the next step — you meet someone online, then maybe give out your number for texting, then call, then meet. Ten years ago, that middle ground of texting wasn't as common." If you haven't embraced this technology yet, you might want to start. As Joel McHale's character said recently on an episode of Community, not flirting over text is "like saying you don't work by electric light."

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls and The Secret Ingredient.
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