Though social media itself is still a relatively new phenomenon, the way in which people have been using the Internet to interact with one another is constantly changing in a way that promotes connectivity now more than ever. One part of social media in particular that has been drawing people together in a unique way is online dating.
Online dating is still a fairly new aspect of social media, with the first official dating site, Match, being introduced in 1995, followed by eHarmony in 2000 (Matthews, 2018). Since then, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of dating platforms, as more and more individuals begin relying on the Internet to play their matchmaker. Apps like Tinder and Bumble have been dominating the online dating scene, but one of the latest contributions comes from the #1 social media site itself: Facebook.
It’s almost surprising that Facebook has only recently jumped onto the online dating bandwagon, considering that the site’s disputed predecessor, Facemash, vaguely resembled that of today’s dating platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard University student at the time, created Facemash in 2003.
The website, designed to compare photos of two students at a time, allowed users to decide “who’s hotter”. Though the site received plenty of attention, it was immediately shut down. This did not discourage Zuckerberg, however, as he quickly went on to develop TheFacebook, which eventually evolved into the Facebook we now know and love (or hate) (Hall, 2019).
Facebook’s popularity grew exponentially since its debut in 2004, and by 2009 it was the most popular social media site in the world. The site was used extensively in colleges and universities as a way for students to connect with one another, eventually expanding to include high school networks as well. By 2006, anyone age 13 or older could join. Facebook’s user-friendly platform made it easy to post and share pictures and videos, join groups, plan events, promote businesses, and build profiles limited only to the user’s imagination. Now, riding on its long-term popularity as a site centered around connectivity, Facebook has taken its platform one step further by integrating its newest feature: Facebook Dating.
A test version of Facebook Dating was first launched in Colombia in 2018, followed by Canada, Thailand, Argentina, and Mexico. On , Facebook announced that they would be expanding the feature to “14 new countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname” (Day 1 of F8 2019: Building New Products and Features for a Privacy-Focused Social Platform, 2019). Then finally, on , Facebook Dating launched in the United States.
The feature, as its slogan claims, allows users to “find love through what [they] like” (Sharp, 2019). Although integrated into the main Facebook platform, users must “opt in” in order to use Facebook Dating. From there, they can create a dating profile that includes their name, gender, occupation, photos, etc., much like a typical dating app. Potential matches are then “suggested based on [their] preferences, interests and other things [they] do on Facebook” (Sharp, 2019).
Right off the bat, Facebook Dating’s most obvious strength is the sheer number of Facebook users already present. With over 2.41 billion active users, Facebook is easily the most popular social platform to date (Clement, 2019). This, coupled with the fact that Facebook is a social media site at its core, gives Facebook Dating an incredible edge over other competing dating services. Rather than needing to install an entirely different app to access online dating, existing Facebook users simply have to opt into the service to get started. And, because all Facebook Dating profiles are already connected to existing Facebook profiles, the algorithm in charge of suggesting potential matches has more information to work with, thus making the process to get started much faster and offering more accurate results.