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A Decade of Dating: Exploring Consumer Perceptions of Online Dating

How have our dating habits changed over time? What apps get the highest success rate, and who do they attract? Find out in our latest report, and don't worry – it's SFW.

REPORTA Decade of Dating: Exploring Consumer Perceptions of Online Dating
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More and more of us are starting relationships with people we've met online.

In fact, Stanford Sociologist Michael Rosenfeld claims that meeting online has become the most popular way for heterosexual couples in the US to connect.

The way we interact with people has changed so much. In ten years, we’ve changed our terminology, how we meet our partners, and, frankly, our lifestyles. 3.8 billion of us now have smartphones, and technology is constantly evolving and influencing the ways we connect to other people.

The Brandwatch React team decided to crunch the global social data, from 1 Jan 2010 – 15 Jan 2020, using Brandwatch’s Consumer Research, to investigate how consumers feel about their relationships and the brands that help start them.

Read on to learn about:

  • The changing language of love and relationships
  • How we went from sites to apps
  • Consumer perceptions around the most popular dating apps

The changing language of love and relationships

The way we talk about our partners and our own status is evolving all the time.

Of course, there are the standard expressions:

  1. ‘Single’ is the top mentioned relationship status on social (we found it mentioned 1.7 billion times).
  2. Surprisingly, marriage mentions on social are just a little less popular, clocking in at 1.6 billion mentions.
  3. Engaged, fiancée and fiancé, clocked in at 70 million mentions in our study.

But there are also more niche ways that we have used over the years to express our own statuses. For example, back in 2010 Jason Derulo launched a Facebook app that encouraged singletons to change their status to ‘Ridin Solo’, while Emma Watson popularized the term ‘self-partnered’ in 2019. ‘Single-positivity’ seems to be an ongoing trend, even if the terminology around it has changed.

Changing behaviors have also meant we’ve come to verbalize new phenomena. For example, let’s look at some slang terms related to attraction and dating that have seen peaks and valleys over time:

  • The trend of cuffing – finding someone to lock down for the cold winter period for associated cosy activities has had 14 million mentions on social since 2010. This seasonal term sees peak activity in the winter months, before cooling down for the summer period.
  • Ghosted or ghosting appeared in 3.7 million mentions we found. This of course, is the deliberate ignoring of messages and has risen in popularity massively over the last year or so. While the act of ignoring (or hiding) from someone might be a timeless thing, it’s only recently that we’ve given it a word.

Mentions of 'cuffing' and 'ghosted' on social

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 2010-2019
  • Bae, or ‘before anyone else’, was the most popular slang term we searched for, with 240 million mentions. But, just like Icarus, bae flew too close to the sun. It’s decreased in popularity since its peak in late 2014, but it’s still used today.
  • Thirsty was the second most used term on social with 61 million mentions. Urban Dictionary’s definition is ‘A synonym for horny’ and the term was particularly popular in 2013, though it’s since died off a bit.

Mentions of 'bae' and 'thirsty' on social

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 2010-2019

Website dating vs app dating

Online dating properly got going with dedicated websites. It’s only more recently that mobile apps have become a bigger deal.

We can see how language has changed over time to reflect this, with Google searches for the term ‘online dating’ falling and the term ‘app dating’ rising.

Online dating vs app dating searches

Source: Google Trends | 13 February 2020

That said, dating sites are still very much alive and kicking. And, looking at online conversations around popular dating sites, they’re actually talked about more positively than app-based dating brands.

This suggests a higher level of satisfaction with website dating.

Delving deeper into dating site conversation, we found that those discussing them online were:

  • More likely to be female than male
  • Tended to be interested in music (16%), family and parenting (12%), food and drinks (9%) and books at (8%).

So, whether you prefer swiping on an app on your phone or dating via a website, you have options. For the rest of the report, we’re going to look specifically at the growing universe of dating apps.

To explore how consumers perceive different dating apps, we chose seven of the most popular (based on app store reviews). Then we looked at how they were discussed in public social media posts over the last 10 years.

Here’s a little guide to each, based on our findings around who was talking about them and the dating profile pictures they were sharing on social:

Tinder

Interests: We found that those talking about Tinder are most interested in: music (13%), family and parenting (9%), food and drinks (9%). and books (9%)

Profile pictures: According to image analysis of social posts – screenshots of profile pictures posted online – Tinder users love a good pet picture. Dog’s were the most popular feature, followed by cats. Vacation photos are also common.

Bumble

Interests: We found that those talking about Bumble were most interested in: sports (10%), music (10%), family and parenting (10%) or books (9%).

Profile pictures: According to image analysis of social posts, Bumble profile pictures lead the way with pictures at protests and demonstrations. And, If you thought Tinder was pet obsessed, image analysis revealed there were 24K posts online of pets screen-grabbed from a Bumble profile! These, again, were mainly featuring dogs and cats.

Grindr

Interests: We found that those talking about Grindr were most interested in: music (13%), family and parenting (9%), food and drinks (9%), or books (9%).

Profile pictures: According to image analysis of social posts, Grindr profile pictures tend to focus on travel (from cities and skylines to temples), festivals, and people doing sports or bodybuilding.

Feeld

Interests: We found that those talking about Feeld were most interested in books (12%), sports (11%), or family and parenting (9%).

Profile pictures: If you value privacy this could be a great platform for you – we didn’t find people sharing profile pics on social.

OK Cupid

Interests: We found that those talking about OK Cupid were most interested in books (11%), family and parenting (9%), tech (9%), and music (9%)

Profile pictures: Our image analysis of OK Cupid users posting profile pics to social found popular scenes to be brunch and vacation. In terms of activities within those images, sitting was the most popular followed by surfing, equestrianism or dance.

Match

Interests: We found that those talking about Match were most interested in family and parenting (12%), sports (11%), music (10%), or books (8%)

Profile pictures: If you value privacy this could be a great platform for you – we didn’t find people sharing profile pics on social.

Hinge

Interests: We found that those talking about Hinge were most interested in food and drink (12%), books (12%), sports (8%), or music (8%).

Profile pics: According to our image analysis, Hinge users love using landmarks in their profile pictures. Pictures from metropolitan areas are also popular.

Which dating app is best?

Of course, this depends on what you’re after.

Looking at sentiment analysis, Hinge and Tinder tend to get more negative than positive conversation which suggests a lower satisfaction rate compared to the rest of the apps.

Meanwhile, Bumble and Feeld seem to be rated pretty well:

But we can look beyond sentiment, too.

Looking at what people said about their expectations for a dating app, we found that:

  • Bumble is the best app for making a meaningful match, with a lot of conversation categorized as joyful.
  • Likewise, Grindr is discussed as a good platform for both short and long term encounters. The app caters to every gender, and has a high percentage of joyful mentions.

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