These days, it’s hard to imagine life without computers; the advances in technology leading to the development of smartphones and tablets have truly made the personal computer ubiquitous. Thirty-five years ago, when Microsoft was founded, computing stood on the threshold of a new era; it’s hard to imagine Bill Gates and Paul D. Allen knew what lay in store, and when, two years later, Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak made the first truly usable personal computer - the Apple II - the Age of Computing dawned on an unsuspecting world.
Today’s devices allow us to always have a computer in our hands; smartphones and the Internet keep us connected – to social media, to our workplace, to our families – and millions of applications (‘apps’) are available for us to use.
Computing technology is always striving to help us make our lives easier – from workplace office suites to recipe organizers for our kitchens, computers are trying to help us live our lives; one of the growing areas where computers are doing this is in the world of dating.
Finding that special person to share your life with has gotten much more complicated than it was for our grandparents and great-grandparents; the social fabric has changed from small-town, rural communities into large cities. While small towns and rural communities do still exist, young people are graduating from colleges and universities and relocating all around the country and around the world. Moving into a large, unknown city can be isolating, especially if you don’t go to church or have hobbies with supporting clubs. Add in the prevalence of STDs, and the dating world gets even scarier; young, technology-savvy people are turning to their computers to help them find people with common interests and to find safe social areas to meet them in person.
In the traditional dating model, you look for your partner in your immediate area – at work, at church, or at events – concerts, or neighborhood block parties - or at your school. You also enlist your friends and family members to utilize their immediate areas, and to set you up on a ”blind date;” blind dates do not always fail – you can meet someone worthy of further exploration on a blind date; however, the success rate depends upon the acumen of the friend or relative setting it up.
For Millennials and Gen Zers, online dating is the technology equivalent of a blind date, but with some significant differences: you are the one selecting the person, not a friend or family member, and the choices are made from a pool of people matching the criteria in your online dating profile.
Online dating sites utilize psychological studies of successful marriages and partnerships and often rely on human knowledge acquired over years of studying what makes a relationship work to develop their profile questions and increase the likelihood of a successful match.
Dating app HILY (Hey, I Like You), for example, collaborated with a clinical psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cilona, to create a compatibility check feature -- a 40-questions quiz on relationship orientation, personality traits, lifestyle, communication style and other personal preferences -- that allows users to check their compatibility with one another before making a match.
Social skills for the Millennial or Gen Zer are not as developed as the social skills of prior generations; ironically, technology is the culprit. The advent of the smartphone and texting means younger people are communicating without using interpersonal communication skills; this leads to awkwardness when meeting in person, because the skills of reading body language and facial expressions are not highly developed.
Meeting people through an online dating site allows you to select somebody you’re likely to be compatible with – which cuts down on the failed dates – but you are eventually going to have to interact with this person on a face-to-face basis. You can improve your interpersonal skills with video chats; you will make mistakes, but you will learn from them; if you blow the relationship online, it’s easier to get back on your feet and try again. Improving your interpersonal skills this way will increase your chances of a successful face-to-face meeting.
One drawback of traditional dating is it’s limited to your immediate locale; online dating sites expand your locale to include the entire world. It also makes long-distance dating easier – you can text and video chat from wherever you happen to be at the moment.
There’s no gainsaying it – it’s a scary world out there, filled with scammers, hucksters, and not-nice people who just want to take advantage of someone looking for their soul mate. Online dating sites are keenly aware of this, and they go to great lengths to ensure people on their sites are legitimately who they say they are.
However – you need to be aware and cautious: don’t include your home address, your workplace, or your personal phone numbers on your profile; set up a separate cell phone number for your online contacts, one that’s easy to block; let others know where and when you’ll be meeting someone face-to-face. Utilize the reporting feature of your online site if you are harassed, threatened, or you think you’re dealing with a scammer.
We live in the Digital Age; almost every facet of life is online in some format. Using an online dating site to find your match is a great way to date these days, but stay smart and aware as you do so. Millennials and Gen Zers are technology savvy, but not necessarily people smart; using a reputable online dating site helps mitigate this shortcoming and can lead to a great romance.