Here’s an unintended consequence of our increasingly online world. Online dating may be making our politics more polarized.
A report in the journal Political Behavior suggests the increasing use of online dating and social media sites is keeping people from meeting potential partners who don’t share their political preferences. These sites allow people to filter their searches with criteria that are correlated with their political leanings. That means more couples that lean toward political extremism, and more politically extreme children.
As a result, the study suggests, there may be long-term consequences for political polarization: not only are such couples more likely to move to the ideological extremes because they lack access to contradictory opinions, they also are likely to produce children who hold ideologically extreme positions. The end result is a more polarized America where more and more people cannot understand how others could possibly think differently from themselves.
The ability to filter relationships based on factors that correlate highly with political preferences is possible only due to the advent of personal webpages, social media, and dating websites. Such mechanisms enable individuals to find potential mates far outside their immediate social circles and learn far more about their preferences and attitudes than is possible when people meet through face-to-face social interaction. The Internet also allows people to be pickier about who qualifies as “acceptable” before they ever have the chance to meet. As a result, we now can limit our exposure to contradictory political information in advance—information that political scientists have determined to be critical in making us tolerant citizens.