Most of us simultaneously use social media apps while consuming lots of fear-mongering content about the companies we use to stay connected to friends and family. Just this week there was yet another viral story about supposed screen addiction after a child was recorded “scrolling” in their sleep—hint for the parents, less screen time. Moderation is key for both children and adults. Given our present state of techno-panic, let’s consider how helpful social media, specifically dating apps, can be for answering one of the most important questions: “Who should I spend my life with?” 

According to Pew Research, one in ten partnered adults—meaning those who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed romantic relationship— met their current significant other through a dating site or app. Considering the loneliness that many adults are experiencing, enough to warrant a Surgeon General’s Report on the “Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” we should be extremely grateful to have such convenient options available to find a life partner.

Thirty-six percent of all U.S. adults have used a dating website or app in their lifetime. For gay adults, who make up less than 8% of the total population, these apps are invaluable in connecting with potential partners given the statistical difficulty of finding a large dating pool where one happens to be born. 

Even though these apps are quite popular, there is still a bit of an eye-roll associated with going through the process. As a young unmarried woman myself, who mostly spends time with other young, unmarried people—I’ll be the first to say that dating on and offline isn’t easy and that I’ve had my share of frustration with dating apps, and with the more “organic” ways of meeting men. 

In 2021, there was a splash of news articles citing statistics about how couples who met on dating apps and websites were several times more likely to get divorced than people who met through friends and family. That data (which only surveyed 2,000 ever-married adults in the United Kingdom) wasn’t false, but should be taken with a grain of salt since every situation is different, and so is every dating app. Also, consider that a growing portion of U.S. adults are either unpartnered, cohabiting, or have never been married.

Statistically, it seems like the experiences on dating apps are mixed for everyone. 

Funny enough, the complaints I often hear about dating apps mirror the options crisis I often go through when I show up at the grocery store unprepared. “There are too many options, how do I know what to get? What do I have planned with my life this week?” The same general advice can be given for both dating and shopping: Consider what is essential, what fits in with your short-term goals, what will make you happy, and what’s required to keep you alive and healthy. 

It’s easy to blame the apps we use for our problems because that’s a little easier to do than to reconcile with the fact that we may be too picky, disagreeable, unclear with intentions, or unsure about what we want. And we mix those unpleasantries with the fact that dating isn’t always easy, if it was, no one would have historically gone to matchmakers or bought tickets for speed-dating events.

These apps aren’t a search engine for a soul mate. The challenges of normal life don’t disappear through an online portal. You still might think someone is weird, they may not have all of the qualities. Tradeoffs are a necessary part of life, relationships included. Spending time dating means less time spent watching television. 

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. 

Recognizing the splintering of interest and intention on widely used dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, more specialized apps are attracting marriage-minded users and existing apps let users list what they are looking for, from “hook-up” to “long-term.” Catholic Match, J Date, Christian Mingle, The Right Stuff, and many others let people filter for religion and political values. 

When asked why they’ve turned to dating sites or apps in the past year, 44% of people said a major reason was to meet a long-term partner. In our era of declining marriage and fertility rates, I’m hopeful that online options will continue to improve the odds of successful partnerships and marriage.