“Did it just get hot in here?”
That’s how OKCupid
greets users who upload photos to their online dating profiles. Such positive affirmation and the clicks of other singletons might help people feel less cold on these cold winter nights, as the holidays draw to a closer the winter closes in.
Online dating companies say that January is the busiest time of year for new members and connections. “That idea makes sense to me. Maybe if you see nothing but snow outside your window for days, you might think, ‘I’ll give this a try.’ That feeling of isolation or disconnect might motivate people to reactivate their Tinder profile,” said Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communications studies at University of Kansas.
Even Sharon Stone wants a date. Last week, the actress tweeted
that she was kicked off the dating site Bumble as other users reported her profile as fake. “I went on the @bumble dating sight [sic] and they closed my account,” she wrote. “Some users reported that it couldn’t possibly be me! Hey @bumble, is being me exclusionary? Don’t shut me out of the hive.”
Clare O’Connor, editorial director at Bumble, tweeted at Stone that her profile had been reinstated. “HA! @sharonstone, we at @bumble found your account, unblocked you, and ensured this won’t happen again,” she wrote. “You can get back to Bumbling! Thanks for bearing with us and hope you find your honey.” (Stone’s tweet was retweeted over 4,000 times and received 44,000 likes.)
At least, she is not alone. Dating app Zoosk typically sees a 20% jump in users in the first two weeks of the year and eHarmony sees a similar increase in mobile registrations since the holidays. Grindr, an app for gay men, usually experiences a 30%-plus increase in users over the holiday season. Match.com and OKCupid also see an uptick between Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Another reason for the surge in dating-app activity may be connected to post-holiday blues. “Many singles sit around the family dinner table during the holidays and think, ‘Maybe it would be better to have a partner,’” says Mark Brooks, a dating-industry analyst and the editor of Online Personals Watch. “That’s when they start hitting dating sites in droves and go on dates before the indigestion sets in.”
With the constant stream of happy holiday photographs over social-networking sites like Facebook and Instagram
experts say the pressure to be in a romance this time of year has never been so intense. “There’s an onslaught of images of family and togetherness,” says Pepper Schwartz, author of “Dating After 50 for Dummies.” Bad weather doesn’t hurt either.
Who wouldn’t want to emulate the happy photographs of couples over the holidays? But online dating isn’t cheap. Free apps nudge people to upgrade their service for a fee, and the fee-only sites are aimed (in theory) at serious daters. Roughly 30 million unique users, or about 10% of the U.S. population, visit dating sites every month, according to market researcher Nielsen.
Match.com charges between $16 and $36 a month, depending on the length of time you sign up for, and eHarmony charges between $10 and $60 a month. Users can save by signing on for, say, a six-month bundle. And some sites and apps, like PlentyofFish.com, Tinder, Grindr and OkCupid, offer basic membership for free.
Those prices of course don’t include the cost of the dates themselves. Studies suggest that single people spend between $1,596 and $2,069 per year going on dates, depending on where they live. That price tag includes preparations for a date. But in cities like New York, dinner for two with wine can easily top $150.
The good news: At a 10-year high, wage growth for American workers likely to keep accelerating. Millions of single people may have more money to spend on dating. A 10-year-long bull market and economic growth, despite predictions of a recession, have help: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
is up 21.4% over the last 12 months; the S&P 500
is up 27%.
Americans are practical, even when it comes to love. Some 56% of people say they want a partner who provides financial security more than “head over heels” love (44%), a recent survey released by Merrill Edge, an online discount brokerage and division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch
This sentiment is held in almost equal measure by both men and women (54% and 57%), which may not be a surprise given that people are getting married later in life and, as such, probably have more assets and are looking for someone who is equally financially secure and/or solvent. Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) was the only cohort to choose love (54%) over money.
Singletons like Stone should exercise caution, however. Studies show that many online daters lie about their age, although some dating sites have recently taken steps to penalize users for taking years of their age in an effort to prevent that. Other singletons use filters or airbrushing apps to make themselves look fresher.
Dating sites provide access to more potential partners than do traditional dating methods, according to one study published in the journal “Psychological Science in the Public Interest,” “but the act of browsing and comparing large numbers of profiles can lead individuals to commoditize potential partners and can reduce their willingness to commit to any one person.”
They also provide troves of data on relationships. Dating website eHarmony, a company founded in 2000 to find heterosexual couples long-term relationships, asked more than 2,300 people who have a partner of the same or opposite sex whether they were content in their relationship. The survey zeroed in on several factors that the happiest respondents had in common.
They had a healthy sex life and an equal balance of economic power, were most likely to be younger (between the ages of 25 and 44), have two kids, each earn at least $75,000 a year and have a B.A. than their unhappier counterparts. Over 60% of LGBT couples say their relationship is more focused on quality time than sex, although they tend to have more sex than their heterosexual counterparts.
Couples also noted two more things: Improved awareness of social justice issues and similar political convictions correlated with happiness. Women told eHarmony researchers that they place more value on emotional and financial stability, while men tend to find happiness, physical attraction and health as the most desirable traits in a mate.
The downside: people get ghosted on dating sites. That is, they’re either ignored or the conversation runs dry. “A lot of people do give up on the New Year’s resolution,” Hall says, “just like going on a diet or exercising. It’s hard to keep the new habit maintained. It’s certainly the case that people find online dating to be work.”
“Either way, it’s a lot of rejection.”