The digital medium has changed numerous aspects of modern life. In the vocational realm, digital communications have revolutionized the way people work; in education, digital media have been responsible for the explosion of remote learning opportunities; and in the social realm, social networking (in particular) has radically changed the way that people make and maintain social connections. On one hand, the prospect of online dating provides new options for people who are too busy to try to meet others in the traditional ways. On the other hand, digital media and online social media have also been the source of infidelity and other forms of duplicitous or deceitful relationships, largely because of their potential to be exploited for those purposes by virtue of the anonymity and remote communications they are capable of supporting. On balance, it is likely that the online medium is not directly responsible for the deterioration of relationships as a result of infidelity or other forms of deceit perpetrated online. Online media merely provide a set of tools that can be used for whatever purposes desired by the individual user. In that respect, blaming online dating for the immoral choices of individuals is not dissimilar from blaming infidelity on the increased availability of telephones and automobiles a century ago.
The Argument that Online Dating is Detrimental to Intimate Relationships
Most of the momentum of the arguments that online dating is detrimental to intimate relationships comes from anecdotal references, including personal experience. Since the rapid growth of the Internet in the last two decades, instances of infidelity and other duplicitous social behavior have skyrocketed (Slater, 2013). More marriages dissolve because of online interactions every year and there are even commercial websites dedicated to helping married people cheat (Slater, 2013). Before online social media, there was no practical way to locate and re-establish friendships and romances from decades in the past. Now that people routinely maintain online social media profiles and publish information and photographs of themselves that anybody can find with a very simple Internet search, long-term marriages are now threatened by the ghosts of relationships long passed.
Online dating is even more prone to exploitation, such as by married (or other committed) partners who pursue recreational sex secretly. It promotes the simultaneous pursuit of multiple partners and even the maintenance of entire fabricated personas online (Slater, 2013). In addition to providing easy means of re-establishing old relationships and facilitating infidelity, online dating may also contribute indirectly toward the dissolution of marriages even without actual infidelity or deceit. Investing time into resolving interpersonal issues within a committed relationship is much more difficult than bonding with friends who validate us. With understanding friends and acquaintances always only a fingertip away and so many online dating opportunities, people might give up on their existing relationships instead (Slater, 2013).
Finally, critics of online dating also suggest that it is impossible to duplicate all of the elements of human social and interpersonal relationships online (Keen, 2013). They worry that people who meet or pursue relationships online might be establishing very different kinds of relationships because they may not really know their partners the same way that partners who meet traditionally know one another (Keen, 2013).
Counterargument: Online Dating is not Detrimental to Intimate Relationships
It is true that online dating can be exploited by committed or married partners who pursue sexual activity outside of their primary relationships. It is also true that some of those kinds of incidents have involved people who would probably never have begun communicating intimately before online dating became so common. But it is equally true that telephones, automobiles, college enrollment, cheap air travel, cellular phones, and simultaneous fulltime-employed partners working opposite shifts also correspond to greatly increased numbers of illicit relationships and rendezvous that could never have been easily perpetrated without those modern conveniences or circumstances. However, many more (millions of) people have simply incorporated online connectivity generally, and online dating more particularly, into their lives, much the same way that previous generations incorporated driving and talking on telephones. At that time, geography on any scale beyond local limited the potential relationship candidates to those available in the local community (Penn, 2007).
Advances in communications and transportation technology always provide unintended convenience and tools to support illicit activities, both in the realm of intimate relationships and also much more generally, such as in connection with the corresponding…