Where will I meet my future spouse? It’s a question most single people have pined over countless times. Ten to fifteen years ago, the notion of online dating was heavily stigmatized. We saw it as a place where socially stunted undesirables wound up. It was a medium of last resort, if you will.
New data suggests what, anecdotally, we now hold to be true–namely that online dating accounts for a sizeable portion of new marriages and relationships. In fact, if current trends hold, come 2015 it may be the most common way for somebody to enter in to a new relationship or meet their future spouse.
Match.com released a study in April of 2010 that analyzed trends in the world of online dating. Before delving in to the statistics, let’s take the results with a grain of salt. The study was bankrolled by match.com, and with over 11,000 respondents, it surely didn’t come cheap. Nonetheless, it represents one of the broadest surveys of online dating, so the findings shouldn’t be ignored by corporate association alone.
The survey found that after questioning 7,000 marriages, 38% of couples met through family and friends, 27% met through school, while 17% met online. And though marriages stemming from online meetings are still in third place, it’s important to keep in mind that the figure has risen from a base of 0% over the past 15 years. That’s a rather meteoric rise that has cut in to the “marriage market share” of other categories significantly.
“Unsurprisingly,” the study also found that match.com accounted for twice as many dates as the next biggest competitor. That’s definitely a finding that requires careful interpretation. See my article on how to choose an online dating site for an examination of how match.com is more oriented toward serial daters that like to “play the field widely” than an intensive site like eHarmony.com. The point being, number of dates initiated is probably a poor metric by which to measure the quality of an online dating site.
The general finding of the match.com/Chadwick Martin Bailey study is buttressed by more objective scholarly findings just released by sociologists Michael Rosenfeld and Reuben Thomas, at Stanford and CCNY respectively. In a working paper just presented at the 2010 American Sociological Association meeting, Rosenfeld and Thomas noted that approximately 25% of new marriages originated from online meetings.
Intriguingly, the study also noted that adults with internet access are more likely to be in a relationship than those without it–a novel finding that underscores the importance of technology in establishing relationships in the internet era.
So the next time you find your friends goading you for that new eHarmony or match.com account, unload a few of these statistics on them–and let them know that while you’re still in the minority, soon they will be. It turns out all those internet daters in the late 90s weren’t social rejects after all; they were just a few years ahead of the digital zeitgeist.
Match.com and Chadwick Martin Bailey Studies 2009-10, Recent Trends, Online Dating. http://cp.match.com/cppp/media/CMB_Study.pdf. Accessed 8/31/2010.
“What is the Best Online Dating Site?” Doug Brockwell. Associated Content. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5749266/what_is_the_best_online_dating_site.html. Accessed 8/31/2010.
“Internet Access at Home Increases the Likelihood that Adults Will be in a Relationship, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100816095615.htm. Accessed 8/31/2010.