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Dating Apps Don't Inhibit Love, Study Finds

drawing of people using a dating app

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

Key Takeaways

  • Online dating apps are a hugely popular way to meet people, but they suffer from a number of misconceptions.
  • Some people believe that app users don't have good intentions, and aren't looking for long-term relationships.
  • However, there's little scientific evidence to support this, and a recent study found that couples who meet through a dating app have "stronger cohabitation intentions" than those who get together offline.

With COVID-19 making it difficult—if not impossible—to meet potential partners in real life, dating apps have never been more popular. But they’ve never quite managed to escape the allegations that they’re a hotbed for untrustworthy sorts with dubious motives.

For the singles out there who have reservations about users’ intentions, some good news comes in the shape of a recent study published in PLOS ONE by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland. Researcher Gina Potarca found that couples who get together through a dating app actually have "stronger cohabitation intentions" than couples who meet in non-digital environments. 

Study Findings


The UNIGE study analyzed data from a family survey carried out by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office in 2018. Dr. Potarca looked at a sub-sample of 3,235 people over the age of 18 who were in a relationship with someone they had met in the past decade. She investigated the couples' intentions to start a family, their relationship satisfaction, and their individual well-being.

Dr. Potarca discovered that before mobile dating apps came along, dating websites mainly attracted people over the age of 40 and/or divorcees looking for romance. "By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use,” Dr. Potarca said in a UNIGE press release. “This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population."

Gina Potarca, PhD

The internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet. It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.

— Gina Potarca, PhD

The results of the study suggest that app-formed couples have stronger cohabitation intentions than couples who meet in a non-digital environment. Women who found their partner through a dating app have stronger desires and intentions to have children than those who found their partner offline.

Also, partners who met on dating apps express the same level of satisfaction about their relationship as couples who met offline.

Another positive finding is that online dating apps make it easier for people to meet potential partners from different socio-educational backgrounds and geographical areas.

"The internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet," Dr. Potarca said. "It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention."

Matthew Solomon, life coach

Dating apps can facilitate whatever it is you are looking for. While Tinder, for instance, is often seen as a hook-up app, I know several people who have met their husbands and wives there.

— Matthew Solomon, life coach

Is it Time to Rethink Attitudes to Dating Apps?

Definitely, says relationship coach, speaker, and best-selling author Matthew Solomon. "In the same way that people used to say that Twitter was filled with people tweeting about what they ate for breakfast, a common misconception is that dating apps are only used for hook-ups," he says.

As a relationship coach and someone who has been in the dating pool in the past few years, Solomon speaks from experience. "Dating apps can facilitate whatever it is you are looking for," he explains.

"While Tinder, for instance, is often seen as a hook-up app, I know several people who have met their husbands and wives there. Most apps give the user the opportunity to share what it is they are looking for, whether it be a hook-up, long-term relationship, or anything in between."

Irene Schreiner, LMFT


I always tell my clients that dating apps serve as a filter to help you eliminate qualities that you know for sure that you don't want and to quickly identify qualities that you are looking for. 

— Irene Schreiner, LMFT

Solomon sees the ability to be upfront about what you're seeking as a major benefit of dating apps. "You can state what you're looking for and find someone looking for the same thing," he says. "When I was first on the apps, I was just out of a relationship and not looking for anything serious. I stated that and went on many dates. Likewise, when I became relationship-focused again, I made that clear...and still went on many dates."

During the past several months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, online dating apps may have provided people with the only opportunity to connect with others. "Many of the apps have incorporated video functions so that you can have a video date with someone," notes Solomon.

Dating Apps 101

If Dr. Potarca's study has persuaded you to give online dating apps a try in 2021, it pays to do your prep. "It's important for people to do their research and to find the app that meets their needs," says Irene Schreiner, LMFT. And remember, it's not a one-size-fits-all scenario. "Depending on where people are in their dating journey they may be looking for different things and there are different apps that meet those needs," Schreiner adds.

Almost 40% of marrying couples in the U.S. met online, according to a Stanford University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. 

While no dating app comes with a guarantee of happy-ever-after (if that's what you're looking for, of course), it can be a great starting point. "I always tell my clients that dating apps serve as a filter to help you eliminate qualities that you know for sure that you don't want and to quickly identify qualities that you are looking for," Schreiner says.

She recommends identifying your must-haves and deal breaks so other users know what you're looking for, and being completely honest in your profile.

Irene Schreiner, LMFT

Remember that one of the downsides of a dating app is you don't get the instant energy from someone that you do when you meet in person. Don't be quick to dismiss someone if a picture doesn't create instant attraction.

— Irene Schreiner, LMFT

Solomon agrees that being yourself is the most important thing, and that honesty should extend to the photos on your online dating profile. "Post pictures that are current and represent you and your personality," he says.

"It's good to have a close up of your face as well as a full-length photo. Try to avoid posting group photos when you are looking to connect on an app so the user doesn't have to be a detective to figure out which person you are."

Another tip from Schreiner is to keep an open mind. "Remember that one of the downsides of a dating app is you don't get the instant energy from someone that you do when you meet in person," she says. "Don't be quick to dismiss someone if a picture doesn't create instant attraction."

What This Means for You

No matter how you're meeting people, be it virtually or in person, it goes without saying that dating can be really tough. It's important to be open-minded about all avenues and opportunities for meeting that special someone, but also remember to check in with yourself and your mental health.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Potarca G. The demography of swiping right. An overview of couples who met through dating apps in Switzerland. PLOS ONE. 2020 Dec. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0243733

  2. Rosenfeld M et al. Disintermediating your friends: How online dating in the United States displaces other ways of meeting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2019 Aug. doi:10.1073/pnas.1908630116