The Risk of Online Dating
There are mixed opinions regarding the safety of online dating. In a 2011 study, over 50% did not view online dating as a dangerous activity. On the other hand, 43% thought that online dating involved risk.
Because online dating takes place in virtual space, it is possible for profile information to be misrepresented. While some sites conduct background checks on members, many do not. Some profiles may not represent real humans but rather “bait profiles” placed online by site owners to attract new paying members. Some site owners and advertisers create “spam profiles” to market services and products.
What’s In A Name
Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be a problem. Online dating sites may expose more female members to stalking or fraud. Some members may lie about their height, weight, age, or marital status in an attempt to market or brand themselves in a particular way. Users may also carefully manipulate profiles as a form of impression management. Some site members may try to balance an accurate representation with maintaining their image in a desirable way.
One study found that nine out of ten participants had lied on at least one attribute. Though little white lies are common the most lied about attribute was weight. Followed by age. Furthermore, knowing a large amount of superficial information about a potential partner’s interests may lead to a false sense of security. Gross misrepresentation may be less likely on niche sites than on casual dating sites.
Bad Media Coverage
Media coverage of crimes related to online dating may also contribute to perceptions of its risks. However, online dating may also have advantages over conventional dating. Dating online offers unprecedented access to potential partners for singles who otherwise would not have such access.
The emergence of dating sites that promote adultery, such as Ashley Madison, has stirred some controversy. Marriage breakups happened in about 6% of online couples, compared to 7.6% of offline ones. However marital satisfaction scores were 20% higher for online couples when compared to offline matchmaking.