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Love is kind of a big deal. And increasingly, the search for love is happening online.
The Pew Research Center released a report today on online dating and relationships. The report found that one in 10 Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app.
Of these dating service users, 66 percent have gone on a date with someone, and 23% have met a spouse or long-term partner through these sites.
The number of people using online dating services is growing dramatically, and public attitudes towards these services are changing.
Back in the day, searching for a partner online was viewed as kind of desperate. It was treated, at least by youth, as something for sad, lonely, awkward, socially inept people who couldn’t find a date on their own.
But this is not the case anymore.
Online dating has evolved into something commonplace, something we encourage our single friends to do, a socially acceptable way to meet people, and — perhaps more than all of these — an effective method for finding a partner.
In one of the most comprehensive, longitudinal studies in history, Harvard researchers uncovered one fundamental and universal truth — love is all that matters, and relationships are the most important aspect of our happiness.
But this is old news. Scrooge (among others) has taught us that money and power don’t create happiness. What is changing is the way people find love and the role the Internet is playing in transforming the dynamics and outlook of marriage.
An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed the results of a study that tracked 19,131 respondents married between 2005 and 2012. Results found that more than one-third of marriages begin online. These couples indicate slightly higher marital satisfaction and are less likely to end up in separation or divorce.
Before the Internet, family, work, and friends were the main ways people met their partners. However the role of community has significantly changed over the past 50 years — so much of the engagement with our community happens online, and people are getting married older, working long hours, and moving around more.
Plus blind dates suck, and why rely on serendipity when an algorithmic-based service can do the yenta-work for you?
Pew found that 59% of Internet users agree with the statement that “online dating is a good way to meet people,” which is a 15 percent increase from 2005. 53% of Internet users agree with the statement that “online dating allows people to find a better match from themselves.” Fewer people — 21% — still think “people who use online dating sites are desperate.”
Among the population of online daters, 79% agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, and 70% agree that it helps them find a better romantic match.
It’s not all candles and roses, however.
Many people use these services to find potential, short-lived hook-ups, or simply access a greater pool of date options so they don’t have to settle down. 54% of online daters felt that someone seriously misrepresented themselves on their profile, and 28% have been contacted by someone in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable.
And let’s not forget about the wildly entertaining horror stories you hear from your friends about their online dating misadventures.
The first generation of dating sites, like eHarmony and Match.com, where more geared towards people looking for serious commitments. Pew found that in recent years, using the Internet to flirt, research potential partners, or check up on old flames has become more common. Social networking gives people an unprecedented opportunity to vet their dates and gather information.
Shared interest sites are also more popular. 40% of online daters have used a site or app for people with shared interests and backgrounds.
Then there are the sites that stimulate one’s gag reflex and make you lose faith in humanity.
An app called “Carrot Dating” launched this morning; it offers a “bribe-for-a-date” service. The pitch, disgustingly, said: “There’s only one method of manipulation that has stood the test of time: bribery. It’s a concept so simple that even animals understand — give a dog a bone, and it will obey. Give a woman a present, and she’ll…”
This service is built on the idea that people want to bribe others and be bribed in exchange for going on a date. Surely a relationship that begins with bribery doesn’t stand much of a chance in the long-term, and surely anyone who uses this service is an appalling human being with an appalling value system, but hey, why not tempt a woman with “offers such as plastic surgery or a tank of gas?”
Who says romance is dead?
But it’s not all bad.
Both my parents met their respective partners on online dating sites, and I know multiple friends that have met their significant others on OKCupid. There are also services like HowAboutWe that connect people over real-world “experiences,” so even if the chemistry isn’t there, at least you had fun.
VentureBeat recently sent a duo of spies out into the field to test out four online dating services — Tinder, Let’s Date, Grouper, and Coffee Meets Bagel. Their ultimate conclusion?
The old fashioned way is still the best.