Inquiry Project

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Online dating is changing the way Americans find their romantic partner.

Almost everyone these days can name a couple they know that met on the Internet, but it was not a long time ago that searching the romantic partners online for love was considered strange, and even a bit desperate.

Brief history of online dating.

In 1700, just after the modern newspaper was invented, the first matrimonial service was created.  These services ran ads on behalf of single men and women who found it hard to find a good husband or wife.

At that time, being single past the age of 21, turning to a matrimonial service was seen as an act of desperation. It was strange to talk about that during that time, but still many matches resulted from these services and many people of the 18th century found love this way.

The matrimonial services from that century continued to grow with the combination of technology and dating.  The newspaper had section providing personal ads which singles often replied to via the telephone to send or receive messages.  Then video dating was brought to us by the VHS, more recently, the World Wide Web brought us the online dating experience.

Finding romantic partners on the web may not surprise anyone.  The use of the web for dating makes sense because the web not only allows us to find people in our area or even halfway the world, but it lets us to see, hear, and learn about them.  The web provides images, audio and profiles of personal ads and proves to be a new way to meet others.

One of the first major internet dating web sites was the match.com established in 1995.  From there, the dating industry quickly grew.  By 1996, there were 15 dating website listed in Yahoo, and either websites such as Friendfinder.com and OneandOnly.com which had already started up.

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In 1998, the movie called “You’ve got mail” was released.  The movie starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  They were two business rivals who hated each other in person but fell in love over the web.  Although the movie did not focus on internet dating directly, it put meeting romantic partners on the web is a positive attitude and showcase the web as a new tool to bring people together.  The movie gave a cultural boost to the online dating.

The dating services once again changed with the launch of Friendster and Myspace in 2002.  With those sites, the idea of online social networking was born.  People could meet potential boyfriends and girlfriends on the web without going to dating sites such as Match.com or FriendFinders.com

Despite the wave of social networking, online dating has continued to grow.  In 2015, according to Joshual, the author of 20 Shocking Facts about Online Dating,  American spends over $500 millions on online dating service, making it the second highest industry for paid content on the web.  Currently, sites such as Craiglist are among popular for posting online personal ads due to their popularity, anonymity and ease of use.  This convenience and anonymity allows individuals today with online without having to risk coworkers or friends knowing what they are doing.

Online dating is changing the way Americans find their romantic partner

The percentage of Americans meeting their partners online has risen dramatically.  According to Smith and Duggan, authors of online dating and relationships, one in every ten American adults has used online dating sites.   That number means 11% of American adults – and 38% of those who are single – have used to online dating sites.  College – educated, as well as urban and suburban residents find online dating relatively suitable for them.  Those of the upper end of socialeconomic spectrum are more likely to date someone online or know someone who uses online dating.  Pew Research center estimates that 56% of all college graduated and 57% of American with an annual household income of $75,000 or more knew someone who uses online dating.  Those who have used online dating are more likely to say that their relationship began online than those who have never used online dating.  More importantly, the research states “ fully 34% of Americans who are in a committed relationship and have used online dating sites in the past say that they met their spouse or partner online, compound with 3% for those who have not used online dating sites.”

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Since its inception 20 years ago, “online dating has fundamentally altered the dating landscape,” says Frinkel, a professor at Northwestern University.  We now have more freedom and autonomy in finding romantic partner than ever before.  Monogamy and marriage are no longer the goals for many of us.  Online dating sites have sped up dating landscape, emphasizing the hopes for love.  Online dating offers the dream of removing the historic obstacles to true love (ages, space, and altitude).  Jeffries, author of  Is online dating destroying love?, tells the story of her friend, a lonely assistant professor in a new town who worked long hours, was able to find his spouse halfway around the world.  In North America, according to Ronsenfeld, a professor at Standford University, 78% of population has access to the internet.  For an individual was limited to members of the community, the internet now provides more access to a vastly wider network of potential partners who lives in remote areas with nearly instantaneous communication via text, voice, image, and video chat.  The interaction between potential partners does not depend on their proximity to each other.

Online dating has important advantages over offline dating and has superior features in at least three main areas:

Access

Online dating provides individuals with access to many more potential partners than they could often find in their daily lives.  This is especially useful for individuals interested in partners of a particular type, orientation, lifestyle, or in isolated area.  Online dating provides a tremendous amount of options to people looking for love. For example, in school we met plenty of members of the opposite sex and online dating is probably the only other time in your life that you will be able to connect with so many other eligible singles.  Indeed, it offers remarkably convenient levels of access to potential partners.  According to Joshua,  the author of 20 Shocking Facts about Online Dating, 41M people in the US  have tried online dating and 21M people are match.com members.   With more people connected to the web, “the internet increasingly allows American to meet and form relationships with perfect strangers, i.e people with whom they had no previous social tie,” says Rosenfeld.  The internet allows single to meet romantic partners we normally wouldn’t meet.  Now we can meet people outside of our geographic area with similar interests.     People do not have enough time to sort through all the random people they meet every day.  It’s hard to tell who’s single, who’s looking, and who you are likely to be compatible with.

Matching:

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Online profiles can give plenty of insight into an individual’s personality, background, hobbies, likes and dislikes, dreams, goals and so on. The more you know the better equipped you are to decide if this is a person you wish to get to know or not.  Online dating sites use a different technique compared to traditional dating. Some of these differences include: the ability to search from a deep pool of potential partners outside of one’s existing social community; 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.  The choice of a mate once relied largely upon the individual’s intuitions and personal opinions, the Internet promises to create matches between suitable partners using matching algorithm that draw upon data provided by thousands, or millions, of users.  Other research has indicated that the efficiency of online dating and the size of the potential dating pool compared with traditional methods is significant.

Sam Yagan, CEO of Match Group and co-founder of OkCupid

The online dating sites combine technology, science, chemistry and marketing.  They combine large databases with business intelligence, psychological profiling, matching algorithms and a variety of communications technologies.  To match up lonely singles, Rudder, founder of OKCupid says  “they use match percentages, which quantifies how much users have in common, along with their popularity and in-box messages.  On any dating site, a small subset of users will receive the majority of the messages.  To even this out, they look at the number of unread in-box messages and place users further down the match list.”  Many sites provide matching tools and send you emails at suggested matches to make it easier for you to receive potential dates.  They have special software that can detect if someone set up multiple accounts, claims they are in a foreign country or exhibits bad behavior.  Then the software can flag these account for review or automatically disabled them.

Communication:

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Online dating offers a number of ways to get to know a potential date before meeting in person.  Such computer – aided communication allows for safe and convenient interaction, without much risk of time commitment. It is especially great for busy professionals, or for the safety – conscious. The Pew Research center estimates that “those who have attended college are around twice as likely to date someone online as are those who have not attended college.”  Such communication is an excellent way to test potential partners.  Dating websites are especially helpful for people who are shy and nervous.  There is much less pressure involved in sending a message then approaching someone in person.  The normal progression of online dating, online message and phone conversations before meeting in person allows us to become comfortable with someone before getting together for the first date.

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Although some people think online dating is dangerous, dating online is actually safer than meeting someone at the bars or parties.  In 2010, Boston’s Craighlist killer was charged with murdering a woman he met online.  In 2013, Mary Kay Beckman  sued Match.com for $ 10 millions after a man she met on the site come to her Las Vegas home with a knife and intent to kill her.  But despite the occasional bad news, Rubber, author of  Five Myths about Online Dating, says “the numbers suggest that online dating is very safe.”  He asserts that OKCupid creates something like 30,000 first dates every day and complaints about dangerous meetings are extremely rare.  He remembers only a handful in his 12 years at the company.  Although there are no comprehensive numbers, executives at the other sites report relative low level of abuse.  Additionally, dating sites have taken steps to respond to concerns.  Match.com, for example, now checks its users against the National Sex Offender Registry and deletes the profiles of anyone found on the list.  Online dating allows people to browse partners from their own homes.  It is safer than meeting someone at the bars or parties, where people might be a few drinks.  Also, people almost universally pick public places for their initial online dates such as coffee shops, restaurants, and the like.  He says “it’s very deliberate after all, you are looking for a partner through an interface and that creates a safer environment.

As commercial dating sites become increasingly accepted as a means of forming romantic relationships, more and more couples are meeting online. Also, attitudes towards online dating are becoming more positive overtime.  According to Ronsefeld, public attitudes towards online dating have grown more positive in the last eight years.  59% of all internet users agree with the statement that “online dating is a good way to meet people,” a 15 point increase from the 44% who said so in 2013.  Online daters give themselves the experience high makes. Some 79% of online daters agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, and 70% of them agree that it helps people find a better romantic match because they have access to a wide range of potential partners.

Research and analysis support that online dating accounts for a substantial proportion of the initiation of romantic relationships and significant as a major social phenomenon. Meeting a person online gives you the opportunity to get to know her/him at a gradual pace and this helps to melt away some of the awkwardness and insecurity that is often evident on first dates that evolve from traditional dating.  it is important to remember that online dating is best used as a resource to meet individuals for eventual face-to-face dating. Keeping that goal in mind will prevent you from getting stuck on the drawbacks and limitations of dating online.

REFERENCES

Finkel, E., Eastwick, P., Karney, B., and Sprencher, S., “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13.1 (2012). Web.

Smith, A., and Duggan, A., “Online Dating & Relationships,” PewResearchCenter, October 21, 2013. Web.

Rosenfeld, M., and Thomas, R., “Searching For a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary,” American Sociological Review, April 2012. Web

Callsen, L., “Timeline: A History of Online Dating,” Metronews, February 11, 2013. Web

Davis, J, “20 Shocking Facts about Online Dating,”  therichest, February 6, 2015. Web

Rudder, C., “Five Myths about Online Dating,” WashingtonPost, October 2, 2013. Web.

Nicholson J., “Pro and Cons of Online Dating,” Psychology Today, April 30 2014. Web.

Huska, L., “Online Dating: How Technology Changes our Relationships,” TodayChristianWoman, April 2013. Web.

Strickland, A., “The lost art of offline dating,” Cnn.com, February 13, 2013. Web