Online dating or online shopping?

In the last couple of years, online dating has expanded. A great number of young and older people in Western societies are using different platforms of online dating that come in all shapes and sizes. I have found some examples:

  • eHarmony is for those who believe in a logical and scientific approach to finding the one.
  • JDate is an online dating platform for Jews.
  • is a dating forum for LGBTQ.
  • Muddy Matches is a dating website for farmers and rural singles.
  • Telegraph Dating is dating amongst people aged +40.
  • Dating Vegetarians is for vegetarians who want to date other vegetarians.

As the concept of online dating grows, our approach to dating grows with it. Online dating platforms provide a fast and superficial approach to dating. The access to hundreds of other single people may result in a shallow dating culture, where people are quickly off to the next person, if the first person makes a minor mistake. This is very understandable, because how do you chose, if there are thousands of people to chose from?

Online romance by Don Hankins (CC BY 2.0)

The sociologist Sophia DeMasi (2011) is arguing that our behaviour on online dating platforms is adopting a consumer behaviour. She explains how online dating websites mime some of the features from online shopping websites, and that the users are selecting their partners as they would select commodities (DeMasi 2011, p. 212). The online dating forum is like a marketplace where you can pick the best available deal and return it for another, if you find something wrong with your product. In a tweet, I questioned her criticism of online dating:

Embedded tweet by Anne Bro, April 2017

In offline dating (if that even exists anymore), I would argue that people in a similar manner consume possible partners in terms of picking and throwing away. But I do agree with DeMasi that the rise of online dating gives people the opportunity to practice consumer notions in online dating environments. The fact that online dating websites are constructed in a similar way as online shopping websites, and the fact that all single people in your area are visible for you as possible future partners make the online dating sphere equal to consumer culture on a more concrete level.

With this being said, I am still of a positive opinion towards ethical online dating websites as they give people the opportunity to experiment, discover and socialise. But my positive attitude exists insofar that people become aware of how to behave on online dating platforms so that they meet people rather than consume them. Therefore, I have made a simple ‘how to’ in terms of online dating conduct:

Canva by Anne Bro, April 2011



DeMasi, S 2011, ‘Shopping for love: online dating and the making of a cyber culture of romance’, in Seidman, S, Fischer, N and Meeks, C (eds.), Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, pp. 206-13.


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