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It’s a Match! Online Dating: A New Dating Culture in an Ever-changing Society

Newness, the romantic movie which was released on November 9th, 2017 in Korea, became an issue because of its plot in which two people meet through an online dating application and engage in a relationship that blurs each other’s emotional and physical boundaries. In a society where everything seems possible with smart devices, more and more Koreans are finding their partner via online dating applications, which have increasingly become an important issue in the mobile application industry nowadays. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) introduces how the online dating services are developing and what people think of their development, while also examining the implications of a changing dating culture due to online dating services.

Developing Online Dating Services

The Rise of Online Dating Applications

Online dating services were first invented by Gary Kremen, who got an idea from reading matrimonial advertisements in newspapers in 1993, and founded the dating site Match.com in 1995. Since people used to find their partners in traditional ways such as regionalism, school relations, or kinship, online dating services were not welcomed at first. Later, however, ever since Social Networking Services (SNS) started to develop, online dating services have become social trends based on SNS. Especially Tinder, which pioneered the online dating industry, which has grown remarkably and has approximately 50 million global users with more than 26 million matches per day. It was first launched in 2012, and in only three months, about 20,000 people downloaded the application. Nowadays, it has 85% of the American online dating market share. Meanwhile, in Korea, online dating services have also been rapidly developing since 2010. According to the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA), there are about 170 online dating agencies in Korea with 3.3 million users and ₩50 billion of market scale in 2017.

Appealing Features of Online Dating Applications

Choosing Partners Depending on Personal Preferences

The biggest advantage of online dating applications is that they enable users to find partners they want. Although methods of matching people differ by applications, most of the applications let people set preconditions such as age, region or personal taste and match them based on these preconditions. Additionally, applications intrigue users, using various methods like evaluating how attractive others are. By evaluating the attractiveness of users who best meet the preconditions, or by expressing their interest, users can be more active. Furthermore, niche dating sites have become popular as a way to narrow the pool of potential matches, which pair people by religion, academic background or sexual orientation. Christian Date, for example, is an online dating service for Christian singles, and Boyahoy is an application for gay men. Similarly, Skypeople is an online dating service which puts top priority on the academic background of users.

Niche dating sites based on personal taste are becoming popular./nocutnews.co.kr
Niche dating sites based on personal taste are becoming popular./apkmonk.com

Less Mental and Economic Pressure

Traditionally, Korean blind dates or matchmaking situations were set up by acquaintances or matchmaking companies. Matchmakers on blind dates usually know both sides in an encounter, so they may feel pressure in pairing them because if they do not hit it off,

they may be put in an awkward situation. Matchmaking companies require clients to spend a lot of time and money, but it is not that easy for clients to find the partners they want. Meanwhile, online dating applications themselves work as a matchmaker, so such problems that a matchmaker might be in a pickle about will occur less often. More importantly, it is more economical because people can find a match at an average cost of \5,000 to \10,000 without the help of matchmaking companies.

Public Opinion on

Online Dating Applications

A New Dating Culture Among the Young Generation

Obviously, dating through online dating applications is a new culture in society. In fact, many people use online dating applications in a serious manner and even consider application users as potential marriage partners. According to research conducted by one of the most popular online dating services I-Um, 72% of 4,800 users use applications with a serious attitude and 11.5% use them with marriage in mind. In Korea, the number of couples who meet through online dating applications and get married is continuously increasing. Indeed, more than 200 couples got married after meeting on another popular online dating service Noondate, and there might be even more couples who got married but were not counted. In short, in a society where young people put a priority on cost-effectiveness, even when it comes to meeting partners, more and more of them are turning their eyes to online dating applications that save money and time in building relationships.

Still Negative Public Opinion

Even though many users of online dating services take meeting on applications seriously, public opinion towards online dating applications still remains mainly negative. According to research conducted by Korean research company Embrain in 2015, about 70% of 2,000 respondents said that they did not think they could seriously date using online dating applications. Approximately 60% of them said they might be afraid of honestly telling people that they met their partners through a dating application. Moreover, many people worry that online dating applications could be misused as a means of crime because their personal information and pictures of their face may be leaked to the public. Furthermore, when users plan to meet each other in person, they can be hesitant since some people may have impure motives. This is why people feel like there are not many people using the dating applications when they ask around although users of online dating services statistically increase every year.

Implications for Korean Society

One Step Towards a Personality-Oriented Society

Online dating applications, however, have some important implications for Korean society. As various applications that regard personality as the most important characteristic have started to rise recently, they are shedding the stereotypes that they instigate lookism. Anna, however, is an online dating application using artificial intelligence (AI), which is also called a “voice online dating application.” Unlike other applications, Anna is appealing to the young generation because it pairs people using their voice. If users record and upload their voices, they can hear others’ voices and vice versa. Every day at 10pm, there is a blind date online, which is attractive because it is focused on users’ voices, not on profile pictures like in other applications.

A Need for Improving Information Reliability

Online dating applications have a problem regarding information reliability, which is inevitable in the information age. Most applications confirm users’ identities with their real names, but it is a problem that users can still falsify their other information. According to research conducted by KCA from 2014 to May of 2015, 38.4% out of 500 users of online dating services said they put in false information. To overcome this problem, some applications require more information such as alma mater or workplace, but they are still not fully reliable. Users’ personal information can be stolen and there are no restrictions against false personation. Therefore, stronger punishments for posting false information are necessary. Practical and effective solutions should be introduced such as enabling online dating services to ask for police records if needed. For instance, in New Jersey, the Internet Dating Safety Act that has been in effect since 2008, stipulates that online dating services need to notify users of criminal records and reconsider safety awareness.

A couple who met each other through the dating application Noondate and later got married said that they had met as if they were meant to be together. This implies that finding love is a matter of whom you meet, not a matter of where or how. Online dating has obviously become one of the main social trends in Korea nowadays. Although there are still some problems to overcome, it is time to accept online dating as a new dating culture in this ever-changing society

김효진  theweeknd@skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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