Today, it is no secret that online dating apps as part of the digital revolution have changed the way people meet their partners. Currently in the U.S., one in three married couples meet their partners online [] and there are approximately 340 million people worldwide who use online dating apps to find their love interest. This number has gradually increased over time, however, young users aged 18 to 34 years old continuously become the main users of these applications. [] As online dating apps increase in popularity, could they bring deeper impacts in our society?
A research by Hergovich and Ortega show how online dating apps could change the structure of society specifically by bringing separate racial groups together. Traditionally, people meet their partners from their circle such as their friends of friends or from family but through online dating apps, they could meet people outside their circle or even a complete stranger. This is what the researchers called bringing previously absent social ties together. This is especially important as people coming from certain race/ethnicity will less likely have connections from another race.
However, the emergence of online dating apps enables more interaction between separate race groups. The research found that the rise of interracial marriage parallels with the increase of online dating apps usage that is depicted in the following graph, with the red, green, and purple lines respectively represent the introduction of Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder which are the main online dating apps in the U.S. Their mathematical model further proofs that the increased usage of online dating apps increase the probability of interracial marriage, although the causal relations are not yet defined. []
Figure 1. The Percentage of Interracial Marriage over time in the U.S. []
Another research also shows that since 1995, online-formed couples in the U.S. are 7 percent more likely to be interracial, 7.5 percent more academically diverse, and 12.5 percent more inter-religious, while being approximately similar in age compare to couples who met offline. [] These phenomena shows that not only technology could gradually change the social structure, in a more long-term view, these findings could possibly increase the integration of citizens as more-interracial marriage has often been perceived to be a positive drive for society [] in terms of increase understanding among different groups and the availability of opportunities which previously only available to certain groups.[] An important point that must be noted is that the observed changes are very dependent on the types of online dating apps and the user demography in the applications.[]
Although these presented findings mainly focus on the U.S., it will be very interesting to see whether the same effect exists in other societies such as in Asia Pacific whereas there are 45% of unmarried who registers in online dating apps, compared to the 28% rate in the U.S.[] Asia Pacific does not only have a lot of users, but they are home to the various cultural and religious background that not always come eye to eye. Mixed-raced couples in these more diverse societies often have difficulties to get their parents’ permission to date another race let alone marrying them. Those who continue towards marriage may even be excluded from their family.
This could happen due to the lack of interactions between races as schools and workplace are often polarized with one main ethnicity and the fear of one ethnic group to lose their supremacy. Nevertheless, if the increased popularity of online dating apps encourages more mixed couples in these societies, it could gradually break the stereotypes and other hostile views towards another ethnicity. In a long-term view, it is possible that the social structure that tends to privilege one main ethnic group in finding employment or getting primary needs could be more welcoming and even be equal towards all society regardless of their backgrounds.
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Editor: Janitra Haryanto
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