Online dating has evolved in recent years, attracting old and new users to fresh features. But no matter how big the risk is involved, quitting online dating can be very difficult for most people, according to a new study.
The study that explored why online dating could be tough to let go was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Their findings suggested three influential factors that mediated online dating commitment. That mediation would predict the potential of a person to terminate their account. With higher commitment, the person would be unlikely to terminate their account until their desires have been satisfied. They published their findings in the journal New Media and Society.
Commitment Level Defines Online Dating Persistence
App developers have gained access to better software features that support a wide range of app designs. Some of these developers focused on 3D gaming while others put a great deal of effort into making unique dating apps. But many dating apps suffered criticism due to the freemium system, wherein certain features are only unlockable through purchase. Still, the number of users of dating apps remains high, despite the limitation in the said system.
If those who only use basic accounts for dating apps already have trouble quitting, how much more those who invested money for premium accounts? According to a recent study, investments into such apps are one of the three influential predictors of account termination. Users who are highly committed to online apps, in search of true love, are unlikely to quit and close their accounts permanently. However, they may consider a temporary suspension of their accounts if the service provider allows such an option.
"Much is known about the circumstances that lead people to start online dating. Some may face thin dating markets that make it difficult to meet people through more traditional approaches, while others might be looking to expand the number of options in their dating pool. Less clear, however, is why they decide to stop. With so many potential partners to choose from, how do people make decisions about when to quit dating online and commit to just one person?" said Dr. Liesel Sharabi, an author of the study and director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at Arizona State University, as quoted by US magazine Psychology Today.
In the study, researchers explored the mechanisms behind the commitment of individuals participating in online dating. They investigated the factors that would prevent or urge users to terminate their accounts. They examined every factor with sufficient influence on the commitment, regardless of its relevance to online dating. A cross-sectional survey of 205 online daters was performed to unveil these factors.
Researchers highlighted the three factors with the most influence on user commitment. These were alternatives, investments, and satisfaction, all of which could dictate user behavior. Overall, better quality among these three would correlate to commitment strength. High satisfaction would be significant to support commitment to the service. The more the user was satisfied with the features and social interactions, the more they would stay on the platform.
Investments within the platform would affect their stay on the platform. Those who paid premium services and experienced improvements would likely remain on the platform. Even if they failed multiple times to move a prospective romance outside the app, the quality of premium services would motivate them to keep searching.
And finally, online dating could be utilized for alternative romance to the present one. Instances of individuals looking for better alternatives via online dating have been known globally. They could do this without risking their current relationship, which might simply be boring for them. The thrill of an adventure would sometimes entice a person to seek alternatives. If one alternative was found to be better online, the user would likely stay on the platform.
Researchers identified that the association between the intensity of online dating and commitment would be mediated by the quality of those factors. Across three factors, their analyses determined that higher commitment would likely lead to a lower chance of account termination. As long as the interests of users were maintained, their stay on the platform would be longer than expected.
But deep within the mediating factors, platforms were found equipped with ways to reduce the chance of users to leave. Through email and push notifications, these platforms could alert users of prospective matches. If the notifications contained messages from others, users would likely open the app as soon as possible. And even if those notifications did not lead to success, some users might stay a while because their profile still receives attention. This might motivate them to wait a little longer for a positive match.
Researchers pinpointed scenarios wherein users would likely discontinue online dating apps and services. Some scenarios included were when they realized they never needed an alternative, when a prospect agreed to make the relationship official, and when their newfound partner asked them to delete their account. Though, there were scenarios wherein users would not completely leave the app. They would wait until the relationship reached engagement before deleting the account. They would also delete the app and reinstall it if the relationship fails.
Adult Users of Dating Apps and Services in the US
According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, the majority of US adult users of online dating apps or websites were younger adults, as of February 2020. In the survey between October 16 and October 28, 2019, the adult users of those services were comprised of 48% adults aged 18 to 29 years, 38% adults aged 30 to 49 years, 19% adults aged 50 to 64 years, and 13% adults aged 65 and older. One possible reason why dating apps are dominated by younger adults is the convenience to find romance while building a career.
As of April 2020, a twist was unraveled by another survey. The survey was given to 2,200 adult respondents, aged 18 years and older, from April 22 to April 24, 2020. Only 6% responded as current users of an online dating app or website. About 21% responded as former users of such a service but currently not using at least one. And lastly, 73% responded that they never used any online dating app or service. The percentage of non-users was a surprise since online communications would be the most utilized means to socialize or find romance in this pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to live in a world without physical contact. So, it is a valid reason why users of online dating cannot simply terminate their account. Singles hope that they may find their deserving match, while couples struggling in their relationship attempt to divert their attention from the real issue.