How Dating Online Could Make You A Better Dater IRL

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Online dating can be good for so many things: You can learn how to be an artful texter, how to dig up information about a person you've never met, and how to talk to strangers and make it seem like a totally normal thing. And now, new research from Tinder suggests that your dating game IRL can actually improve if you get on dating apps.
For the survey, Tinder polled 7,072 Tinder users over the age of 18 about various aspects of their dating life. In a separate survey, the researchers asked a general group of 2,502 adults ages 18 to 35 in the U.S. questions about their past relationships, meeting people, and dating life, and then they combined those two surveys into an epic online dating survey. The most surprising part about their findings is, essentially, that there may be a few interpersonal benefits to online dating besides the obvious one: possibly finding a partner.
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Sure, some people hide behind their apps or use them as a crutch, but these findings (which, yes, come from a less-than-unbiased source) turn that stereotype on its head. So we talked to a few experts to see how online dating could potentially help people become better daters.
"I think people, especially those with a lot of social anxiety, can benefit from online dating, because it’s a safe space in which you can control the pace of conversation and interaction, since it happens virtually," says Samantha Burns, LMHC, a relationship expert. But she says you actually have to go out and meet up with the people that you meet online; you're not going to become a better dater just by osmosis.
There's no wrong or right way to date, of course, but certain skills may make finding a partner easier — if that's your goal. Here are a few ways online dating might just make you a better dater in the real world.
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Online daters may be more likely to know what they want.

Swiping through a dating app is a different ball game than just picking up random people in person, because everyone you're seeing is also trying to get in a relationship. "One of the most popular reasons our users tell us they use dating apps is to avoid making moves on people who are unreceptive," says Dale Markowitz, a data scientist for OkCupid. On an app, you actually specify what you want, so it makes the situation a lot clearer.

Plus, the idea that dating apps aren't meant for people who are looking for serious relationships isn't true anymore. The majority of people who have online dated before report having at least one committed relationship in the past, according to the new Tinder survey. And if you're not sure what you want, building a dating profile and being forced to literally spell it out can be a useful and safe way to figure out what it is you're looking for in a partner. "Dating online can help you discern what sort of qualities you are interested in without having to go out and find these people yourself," says Kristin Zeising, PsyD, a couples therapist.
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Online daters may have an easier time expressing their feelings toward their partner.

When you're dating online, you have to DTR out of necessity, because there's an understanding that you're otherwise still on the prowl (unless you delete your app). According to Tinder, online daters are more open to expressing how they feel about their partner compared to people who just offline date. Also, people who online date are 5% more likely to tell their partner "I love you" within the first three months, and they tend to be quicker to commit to an exclusive relationship than offline daters, per the same survey.

And online daters may be incentivized to be expressive from the get-go: A 2007 study found that when people used strong, positive words that express emotions in their messages, their partners reacted better than when they sent messages with only a few emotional words.
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Online daters might be more likely to ask the right questions.

Having an arsenal of awesome first date conversation starters is crucial if you're messaging lots of people on different apps. "Talking about bland topics does not showcase who you really are, and this is your opportunity to make a fantastic impression," Burns says. According to the Tinder survey, the app's users are nearly 15% more likely to initiate conversations with an observation about the person they're interacting with. (And we know that making an observation about someone is usually the easiest way to pick someone up.) This might be a coincidence, or it could indicate that all of the messaging you do on a dating app teaches you how to be a more engaging conversationalist.
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Online daters may be more committed to communicating.

Technology is a blessing when you're trying to keep in touch with a partner, but not everyone is great at it. "There's something to be said about your communication skills if you can manage an online relationship," says Jasmine Diaz, a dating expert. "It takes a certain level of patience, follow-through, and commitment to manage the day-to-day." Someone who's not as well versed in ways to communicate on their phone might have a hard time keeping those elements of the relationship together, like answering a text or remembering to respond to your Google calendar invite, she says.
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Online daters might be slightly more likely to GAF about fidelity.

According to Tinder, 93% of online daters say that fidelity is somewhat or very important in their relationship (and 90% of offline daters agree, which isn't too far off). This totally debunks the belief that people who use dating apps are just trying to screw around; those people exist in the real world just about as much as they do on the internet. And studies suggest that people consider online affairs just as serious as IRL ones, so even though an online affair might be logistically easier to pull off, online connections aren't considered any less meaningful. In other words, online daters are human, too — and Tinder's survey suggests they might be slightly more likely to care about fidelity.
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