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In his thoughtful Atlantic article, Dan Slater speculates that the rise of online dating has begun to foster a decline in commitment.
After all, why put up with the quirks, foibles, and demands of a less-than-ideal partner when dozens, perhaps hundreds, of alluring alternatives are readily available, waiting only for the click of a mouse to initiate what seems likely to be a far more enjoyable, perhaps even deeply fulfilling, relationship? Relationship researchers know that the fabric of romantic relationships is complex, resisting simple generalizations.
Small wonder, then, that some users report giving up on a good relationship in search of an ideal one.
Nonetheless, there is reason to doubt whether the impact of online dating is as straightforward as Slater asserts.
Thus, there is little reason for lofty expectations, except perhaps if one is perpetually optimistic.
On the other hand, the impact of these changes is unlikely to be simple or straight-forward and we will need the serious science of well-controlled empirical studies to understand them.In fact, studies demonstrate that when such temptations are made salient, people who feel committed to their relationships tend more strongly to derogate the alternatives and enhance their existing relationships.It is only when a relationship has already gone sour that alternatives begin to appear more desirable.Online dating has been with us since 1995, when launched the first major dating site, and has quickly become one of the major ways in which people meet their mates—according to one National Science Foundation study, by 2006, more than 20 percent of Americans entering a new relationship had met online.No scholars have noted much of a change in the breakup or divorce rate during that period, and although it is true that people are waiting longer to marry these days, they still appear to be marrying at roughly the same rate as pre-1995.
So far, the online dating industry has resisted calls to conduct or even participate in such research.