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How Dating in Virtual Reality Could Lead to Love in the Real World

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  • Posted on 21st Sep, 2022 15:05 PM
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Dating in virtual reality can allow you to be more authentic on some levels, experts say. But others warn that it also introduces problems like a lack of real attraction.

  • The dating site Dating.com is starting a virtual reality dating service.
  • The company’s new app lets you meet prospective matches as an avatar, or graphical representation, instead of displaying a photograph.
  • Some dating experts say that building connections in the metaverse can be more challenging than in the real world.

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The metaverse may be virtual, but the love is real.

The dating site Dating.com is starting a virtual reality dating service. The company's new app lets you meet prospective matches as an avatar, or graphical representation, instead of displaying a photograph. To mark the occasion, Dating.com plans to host the weddings of three real couples that will be virtually married in the metaverse. It's an example of the growing appeal of dating apps for the VR space. 

"Because you are either chatting through text or voice in real-time in virtual reality, you can get to know someone much more rapidly than trading messages through a dating app," Don Heider, the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, who researches online communities, told Lifewire in an email interview. "If there is a connection, people can get much more information about a person, such as their background, likes, dislikes, and such, than one can through a series of messages through apps."

Virtual Love?

With the rise in popularity of the metaverse concept, many dating websites are jumping into the virtual space. Planet Theta, for example, allows you to wander through virtual reality realms and go on short dates with people you meet. There's also Nevermet which lets you meet and greet through avatars. 

Dating.com claims that virtual reality matches via avatars allow people to create connections without any superficial factors they might be subjected to in the physical world. Of course, many users complain that metaverse avatars are far from flattering. 

"Our virtual dating space is a great place for singles to dip into dating for the first time. Making new connections and starting a new relationship can be intimidating, but dating in the metaverse allows singles to shed any insecurities they might feel while setting up a traditional online dating profile," Maria Sullivan, a vice president of Dating.com, said in a news release.  

Metaverse dating allows some people to do things they can't in real life, Alex Pasykov, the CEO of Taimi, an LGBTQIA+ dating app, told Lifewire via email. "For example, I have heard many stories from people with disabilities about how the metaverse helped them find friends, a partner, or a date," he added. Dating in VR can also "reduce the stress that those who have social anxiety feel in traditional digital or real-life settings because it's not like a true dating scene."

In an email interview, dating coach Grace Lee told Lifewire that one advantage of using the metaverse for dating is that you can reinvent yourself completely. 

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"As an avatar, you are ageless," Lee added. "You don't need to live in a major metropolitan center to meet lots of people. For those who have felt marginalized by factors like race, economic standing or even height, the metaverse offers a way to overcome these barriers  and arguably to be more themselves."

More advanced features promise some unusual date ideas. "Imagine meeting a date to take a walk in Paris or fight giant monsters real time," Lee said. 

But metaverse dating, while "fun and exciting to imagine," is still a long way from competing with online dating. Lee pointed out that VR Chat, a leading metaverse social site, is reported to have an all-time high of 42,000 concurrent users. On the other hand, dating apps, as a whole, have an estimated 323 million users.

The Downsides of Metaverse Dating

While dating in the metaverse means never having to leave your couch, some experts warn that VR love may not last. Jessica Alderson, the co-founder and relationship expert of the dating site So Syncd, said it can be more challenging to build connections in the metaverse than in the real world. 

"If you choose to appear as an avatar that isn't anything like how you actually are, it might be fun, but you won't be sharing your authentic self with your date," Alderson said. "For some people, it can almost be a form of escapism, like having an alter ego. This means it can be difficult to build deep connections because authenticity plays a major role in building a bond."

... dating in the metaverse allows singles to shed any insecurities they might feel while setting up a traditional online dating profile.

One of the main cons of metaverse dating is that it's not policed like the physical world, Alderson pointed out. "This can mean that people can behave inappropriately towards others but not feel the ramifications in the same way," she added. 

And, once you get to know someone in the metaverse, taking things to the next level could be challenging. Virtual dating lacks the inevitable physical factor that tech companies still haven't figured out. 

"Obviously, you aren't able to show or receive physical affection in the metaverse," Alderson said. "Hugging, kissing, sex, etc., is pretty much out of the question. You can go through the motions, but it's not nearly the same as real life. For a lot of people, the physical side of a relationship is incredibly important."

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