If you’re like many other single Americans, you might be turning to an app in hopes of finding love this Valentine’s Day. A recent joint study from professors at Stanford University and the University of Mexico found that in 2017, nearly 40% of heterosexual couples and 65% of homosexual couples found each other online. Those rates have almost doubled since 2009, and are expected to continue increasing.
Online dating has become an increasingly acceptable way to meet new people, and according to Reuben Thomas, who worked on the Standford/U of Mexico study, that is partly because dating has become a much more solitary act. In the past, people’s family and friends introduced them to new people, playing a much larger role in matchmaking. But as the types of communities and families we live in have changed, so has the way we meet new friends and potential partners.
As online dating has become more acceptable, the market for dating apps has exploded. Currently, there are around 2,500 dating sites in the U.S., and approximately 1,000 new dating apps premiering annually. This adds up to a $555 million market that is expected to hit $649 million by 2023.
Much of the money made from dating apps comes from subscriptions users pay. While many sites offer a free version, some also offer paid upgrades that allow perks such as unlimited swipes, additional messaging features, seeing which users have liked your profile, or seeing whether messages you have sent have been read by the recipients. Some apps can earn as much as $90 per user per year on upgraded dating features.
Now that the dating app market is becoming saturated, some apps are finding inventive ways for customers to meet a new special someone. In larger cities, Match.com, Tinder, and Bumble all host live, in-person events where users from the app can meet and mingle. Dating apps can feel impersonal when users have the option to swipe through a seemingly endless number of faces, but the live events allow users to see someone’s face and hear that person’s voice. It also takes away the pressure of trying to plan a first date for someone the user doesn’t actually know.
Further, some users may feel safer meeting potential matches at a crowded live event rather than by themselves. While studies suggest that only around 10% of male dating app users report somewhat or very negative experiences, 29% of women did. These experiences ranged from being contacted in a way that made them feel uncomfortable to having to block or report users for inappropriate behavior. While hidden behind the safety of a screen, some dating app users will use this as an excuse to act without thought for other people. It makes sense that concerns over safety have increased. While one in every 15 homes have high levels of radon, a very prevalent concern, most people find themselves hung up over the threats posed by folks on dating apps.
If you are planning to hit the town this V-Day with someone you’ve met online, there are few things you can do to stay safe.
First, only use reputable dating sites. These are sites whose names you recognize and have many reviews in an app store. It’s also a good idea to take reliable transportation rather than have your date pick you up, just in case things don’t go like you hoped. While this might expose you to a cold or awkward conversation with the driver, this ensures you’re not at the risk of riding home with a date that goes bad. Luckily, rideshare apps have become increasingly popular, even in smaller cities. If you plan on having a couple of drinks or hate the thought of parking in a busy area, relying on a taxi or rideshare might be your best bet.
Second, some experts suggest checking out your potential date online before meeting in person, either by looking on social media or simply searching on Google. You don’t need to be a private investigator to find this information; more often than not, a cursory search can give you all the information you need. As long as you have a first and last name, you can even check to see if your date has a criminal record.
Third, always let a friend (or two) know where you’ll be and who you’ll be with when you go out on the date. That way, if you don’t make it home on time or send a text saying how the date has gone, your friends will be able to have your back. Additionally, you should always meet your date in a public place, preferably one that you are already familiar with. The FBI even notes that if a date asks for money or favors, you might be dealing with a con artist.
Finally, if you’re planning a night for a special someone, make sure to make it fun. This isn’t necessarily a safety tip, but it’s worth mentioning since the holiday of love is upon us.
About 34% of Americans visit casual dining restaurants once a week, so simply going where you always go isn’t going to make the evening memorable. Thankfully, alongside the dating app market, a new industry is growing that caters to couples seeking inventive alternatives to the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date.
One such business is Seattle’s Mystery, a company that will plan a personalized surprise date for you and your date. This fun concept keeps the date’s activity a mystery for you and your partner until the moment you arrive at your destination. There are countless businesses like these popping up around the country, but if you can’t find one like this, there might be local singles events, too. Even though our gaze has shifted to our phones, there are still ample opportunities to meet someone in person in a safe place. So smile, the date of your dreams might be right around the corner.
When you’re ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone new, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind.