The rise of tech-enabled dating help has been one of the most striking developments of the digital era, and these alternative ways of meeting and mating have arisen at a time of fundamental change in the structure of marriage and divorce in America.The number of Americans getting married has been steadily declining, and today a record-low 51% of the public is currently married (in 1960, 72% of all adults 18 and older were married).Americans are also waiting until later in life to get married, and other living arrangements—such as cohabitation, single person households, and single parenthood—have grown more common in recent decades.
Some 61% of men and women who have never married say they would like to get married eventually, while just 12% say they definitely do not want to marry.
Research into whether online dating actually produces more successful relationships or romantic outcomes than conventional (offline) dating is generally inconclusive, although these sites clearly offer a qualitatively different experience compared with traditional dating.
Some of these differences include: the ability to search from a deep pool of potential partners outside of one’s existing social networks; the ability to communicate online or via email prior to arranging for a face-to-face interaction; and matching algorithms that allow users to filter potential partners based on pre-existing criteria.
Other research has indicated that the efficiency of online dating and the size of the potential dating pool compared with traditional methods make the process especially useful for people (such as gays and lesbians, or middle aged heterosexuals) who may have limited options for meeting people within their immediate geographic area or social circle.
Still others have speculated that the rise of online dating has encouraged young adults, especially men, to forego marriage because they can always find women to date and that lowers their interest in committing to long term relationships.
The report that follows is based on survey data from the Pew Research Center’s second national telephone survey of online dating.
The Center last conducted a detailed survey of the internet’s impact on dating and relationships in 2005, and a primary goal of this study is to update key trends on the internet and dating—such as the overall prevalence of online dating, how attitudes towards online dating have changed over time, and whether or not more people are meeting online than in the past.
At the same time, the broader technological environment has changed dramatically since our last survey on this subject, and this has greatly impacted the ways in which people can seek out, research, meet, and interact with potential partners.
For as long as romantic relationships have existed, people have sought assistance in meeting potential partners using whatever options were at their disposal.