Dating, as the term is used in the 21st century, has a very broad meaning. Dating is much less formal than it was 50 or even 20 years ago. Nowadays, it isn’t just the men asking women out, and it isn’t always the man that pays for a date. People meet potential dating partners in many ways now: at work, school, over the Internet, or at special events set up for single people. There is also far less pressure in the dating scene and remaining single is much more common and socially acceptable than it used to be, particularly for women.
So what does dating mean today? It can mean going out in groups, going to specially arranged social functions for single people, and participating in trendy activities like speed dating. And with the Internet penetrating every facet of modern life, it was only a matter of time before people began using the web to meet potential dating partners. With the evolution of the cell phone from simply a mobile phone to a multimedia device, the tendency of using Internet connections to find dates has become even more pronounced. Three types of dating that have grown in popularity in the 2000s are online dating, mobile dating, and virtual dating.
Online dating is fairly straightforward. There are many dating sites, some of which are free, and some of which charge fees. Some are for casual daters, and some are for people looking for a potential spouse. Typically the way they work is that a person interested in meeting someone new creates an account on a particular dating site. This usually involves entering some personal information, uploading a picture, and describing a desirable potential partner.
Online dating sites have different methods of connecting people online. Usually, members can browse other members’ profiles, or conduct a search based on age, gender, or geographical region. Members may contact other members by sending them a message, or a “wink.” The allure of online dating is the sheer volume of potential dates. For people who don’t mind traveling, even geography becomes a secondary consideration.
Mobile dating is believed to be “the next big thing” in the dating universe. People looking to meet others create a brief profile on their phone. They can search for other profiles online, or by phoning the mobile dating service’s number. Often these sites are free, only paying the text message fees imposed by the mobile phone provider. For mobile dating members who live in the same community, it is even possible to be notified if someone they’ve expressed interest in is in the near vicinity.
Virtual dating is more of a game than Internet dating and mobile dating. There are a number of sites on which people set up personal accounts, and then create an avatar, or an online animated version of themselves to interact with other avatars on the site. Both sides have to agree to reveal their real identities if they want to take their relationship beyond the virtual stage.
Dating has changed dramatically in the past few years, and it is likely that over the next decade it will change in a way most of us haven’t imagined yet. The great benefit of Internet and mobile technology is the vast number of people who can be connected regardless of where they live. It has given shy people a way to shine, and brought together loving couples who might never have met otherwise.