Yesterday, god-king of social media and possible android Mark Zuckerberg announced at Facebook’s F8 Conference that the company would soon roll out a dating feature. Facebook users will soon be able to create private profiles and communicate with other people that have common interests and mutual friends.
Shares of IAC and Sparks Dating, the two conglomerates behind some of the most popular dating sites, took a tumble after the revelation of Facebook’s future plans. Their CEOs shouldn’t lose much sleep over Facebook’s move, however. They have established brands, and Facebook’s entry into dating was less a groundbreaking, revolutionary surprise and more the fulfillment of an inevitability. The company has bounced the idea around internally for over a decade. It makes sense that a company built around (1) allowing users to communicate and form relationships and (2) providing a platform for advertising to those users would invest in a feature that keeps users on their site longer.
It was something Zuck said during the announcement that made me skeptical: his pronouncement that Facebook’s dating feature would forge “real, long-term relationships, not just hook-ups.”
As a Millennial with an overbearing study schedule and a distaste for loud and rowdy bars or parties, I have tried out most well-known online dating websites, from OKCupid to PlentyOfFish to Bumble to the king of modern dating apps, Tinder. I’ve eventually left all of them because I have found that they all suffer from the same problems.
Any serious romantic relationship is headed one of two places: marriage or a breakup. Many Millennials — the generation most likely to use online dating — fear loss of individual identity above everything else. Online daters are commitment-phobic, preferring to keep in touch with multiple potential romantic partners at once in a practice called “cushioning.” They would much rather use tools like Tinder to quickly connect with someone, have a casual fling, and go about their business.
This is not the kind of dating I’m interested in.
Additionally, online dating just isn’t a good way to meet people. According to Pew Research, one-third of online daters have never gone on a date with someone they met online, and despite the ubiquity of the Internet, only 5% of people in committed relationships say they met online. There’s something less elemental, less real to typing words addressed to a picture on a screen.
I see nothing in Facebook’s dating feature that would provide a reliable way to reverse this generational trend away from long-term relationships. I see only a Tinder clone, albeit one with more potential users.