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Online dating is often treated as a wacky new trend. Since people started living in big societies several thousand years ago, couples have gotten together mostly because their families wanted them to. Even since then, this individual search for love has usually ended with a romantic introduction through family or friends. This rise in the pairing off of total strangers is changing the kinds of couples that become families, and that is changing the makeup of the next generation of Americans they raise.
Most dramatically, online dating is acting as a desegregating force in the U. They are also more likely to be from different religions 51 percent versus 38 percentboth in how they were raised and in which religion they practice as adults. Couples who met online are also more likely to have one college graduate and one nongraduate 30 percent versus 22 percentbridging the biggest educational and social class divide in America today.
The research used probability samples of American adult couples from andusing a survey completed online but including those who did not have prior internet access to ensure accurate representation across the country. Diverse couples have enormous potential to bridge the social groups that define their diversity, acting as pathways for information, introductions and social support across the different kinds of families and communities they were raised in.
Diverse families can be powerful agents of desegregation, creating diverse social networks of friendships and acquaintances around them. Online dating could have developed as merely a more efficient system of friends and family setting up singles with other singles they know. Such a system could still become the standard way to find love online in the not-too-distant future, such as through social networking sites, and this would probably not create more diverse couples than traditional romantic sources.
One can also imagine people using online dating tools to find mates who are as similar to themselves as possible. People attempt to do that to some extent right now: Every study of how online daters behave on these sites has found that they are more likely to message and respond to other people of the same race or ethnicity, the same religion, the same education leveletc. But people are also biased in whom they choose to interact with offline.
Since the dating pools on most sites and apps are so much more diverse than offline pools, it only takes a little open-mindedness online to produce more diverse couples. Still, online dating could be used to find a partner who matches not just in one way, but in just about every way. It may be hard to find another Swedish Lutheran libertarian punk rock fan who loves rock climbing and has an MBA at your workplace or local tavern, but you History of dating today show find them when looking at all of the online daters in your History of dating today show, state or country.
In that case, online dating could become even more segregating than other sources of romance. The internet is not creating more heterosexual couples than would exist otherwise, though it may be increasing the of same-sex couples. Since at least the mid s, the rate of U.
There seems to be some growth in the s of same-sex couples since the s, but it is hard to disentangle the effect of the internet from the profound social and legal changes that have also occurred for same-sex couples during this time. Despite its marketing, I have not yet seen clear evidence that couples who meet online are happier or stay together longer. And the tendency for people to find romance with those who agree with them politically 54 percent of couples are party-homogenous is roughly the same online and off.
But these could change in the future as well. The industry has so far largely avoided deep public scrutiny, particularly compared to the recent spotlight that has been aimed at other tech companies. Online dating may soon for the majority of new couples in the U. Yet in spite of this important social role, the industry has so far largely avoided deep public scrutiny, particularly compared to the recent spotlight that has been aimed at other tech companies.
There is a growing conversation about the ways the matching algorithms in dating sites control who sees whom, however, which may be discouraging even more diverse pairings. Expect more public attention to how the most popular sites and apps operate, how their algorithms and interfaces sort users, and what data they keep, share and sell. And as the stakes of this social change become clearer to everyone, expect online dating to become more politically contentious even as it becomes a more taken-for-granted part of social life. Reuben J. Thomas is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico.
He studies the sources of friendships and romance, and how networks of interpersonal relationships are related to inequality and group boundaries. IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. Share this —. Follow think. By Reuben J. Thomas, associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. Opinion What dating as a lesbian feels like on apps filled with straight men. Is love a choice or a feeling? Five couples share their stories Feb. Please submit a letter to the editor.History of dating today show
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