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Online dating, the new slot machine

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Ahead of St Valentine’s Consciously Digital has conducted a survey of 187 users of dating apps and websites in different countries. Our findings show that while online dating is becoming accepted in the society (77.5% of respondents say they won’t have any problems admitting they use these services publicly), it largely doesn’t serve its declared purpose, and users are oblivious to how their data is being used.

1. Online dating has become a hobby per se, not necessarily leading to real meetings

While most users aren’t particularly happy with their experience on dating apps (an average satisfaction rating is 5.3 out of 10), many of them keep using the app or website for several months or over a year (44% admit having used them over a year, 10.6% -12 months and 15.5% - between 4 and 6 months). Almost 29% say they use the app several times a week, 21% - less than 30 minutes a day, and 18.3% - between 30 minutes and 1 hour a day.

At the same time, most users ended up having very few conversations or meetings with people they interacted online with. 22.5% say they have probably got replies or exchanged messages with 1/10 of people they got matched to or wrote to. 77.5% users spoke or exchanged messages less than half of the times they wrote to someone or got matched with them.

Almost a quarter said they managed to get on 1-2 dates throughout using the app/website, while another quarter said they were on more than 10 dates.

In other words, most users are spending considerable time using these services without actually having any real conversations or meetings with real people.

As one of the users explained their experience, “A lot of time spent with very little outcome”. Another said, “Nothing happening. Many just collect matches or love to chat but no more than that.” Even those more optimistic admit it takes a lot of effort: “Meeting interesting people, although need to spend a lot of time to find them”.

2. Goals of users don’t necessarily match goals of the apps

Surprisingly, very few people admitted using the apps just to find either short-term or long-term sexual partners (only 14%). Most of us still hope that the app will help us find ‘the one’. When asked about their goals for installing the app, 46.5% admitted they were looking for a long-term relationship, almost 17% for a short to medium-term relationship, and 17.6% didn’t have a clear idea of what they were looking for (which perhaps led to excessive time spent on the app/website without a specific result).

On average users rated the ability of the app or website to satisfy their goals as 4.5 out of 10. This is despite of 1/3 of respondents saying they used paid features.

When asked if they’d recommend their younger self to use the app again, 1/3 say they won’t.

3. Users don’t care about online privacy or how their data can be shared

This is probably one of the most shocking discoveries, as almost 48% admitted they didn’t think about their data being leaked or shared with a third party, and 27.5% only a little bit concerned.

4. Self-esteem is not such a big issue as popularly believed

Contrary to the popular concerns, online dating does not affect self-esteem of many users. Almost 2/3 of respondents say their self-esteem has not been changed as a result of using the apps (and approximately the same number consider themselves averagely attractive).

5. Conclusion

Rather than being concerned by self-esteem issues, which don’t affect that many people, one should be much more concerned by the fact that online dating has become a hobby of its own, where people are spending a lot of time without result, not filling fulfilled, but still keep using the services and sharing their data.

Given a number of investigations about the abuse of data privacy that emerged recently from Norwegian Consumer Council and a number of other organizations, we believe it’s incredibly important to educate the users about what happens with their data, and put pressure on online dating apps to be more transparent around how data is being used, and giving more control over it to the user.


The survey was conducted online among 187 people from 19 countries in January-February 2020 (incl. 34% from UK, 31% Spain, 8% Netherlands, 8% USA). 72% of the surveyed identify their gender as female, 27% male ones, and 1% 'other'. 75% respondents are white, 8% Asian, 6% mixed, 6% latino, 3% Afro-American. 20% of participants are aged 25-29, 25% between 30 and 34, 18% between 35 and 39%.

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