And yet, one thing hasn't changed: It's still damn hard to find love online (or anywhere else, for that matter).
With the promise of algorithmic matching and big pools of single people, the Internet should be a serious-committed-relationships machine. And that should only improve as those algorithms are refined and that pool grows bigger. But alas. Compared with 2005, the rate of online matches that evolve into marriages or other long-term partnerships remains about the same (23 percent today, versus 17 percent in 2005—"statistically similar" numbers, according to Pew). There's no way to gauge whether this number is low or high compared with other venues for meeting people, but it's interesting that it hasn't budged more as online dating has become more popular and more accepted.
But don't despair. Many people have found love online. According to Pew, 5 percent of all current American marriages or other long-term partnerships began online. For such pairings that are a decade old or younger, that figure is 11 percent. One percent of America's serious relationships began online in the olden days, more than 10 years ago.
It's no surprise that as Americans live more of their lives online, some of that time will lead to romance, and the Internet will gain prominence as a site of matchmaking, just as college campuses, bars, coffee shops, offices, and gyms have before it. And so it's natural ask, is this ruining society?
Yes was the answer provided by an Atlantic piece earlier this year, "A Million First Dates." In it, the author, Dan Slater, argues that the prospect of just so many prospects put his protagonist, Jacob, off ever settling down. "But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new?" Slater asked. "What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high?" Pew's data shows that a third of people share his concern.
Yet Alexis found reason to be skeptical of this claim. In a response essay, he wrote:
First off, the heaviest users of technology--educated, wealthier people--have been using online dating and networking sites to ﬁnd each other for years. And yet, divorce rates among this exact group have been declining for 30 years.Take a look at these statistics. If technology were the problem, you'd expect that people who can afford to use the technology, and who have been using the technology, would be seeing the impacts of this new lack of commitment. But that's just not the case.
Perhaps, Alexis suggested, we might want to look around at the bigger context in which the Internet has emerged. What of changing gender norms as described by Hanna Rosin in her book The End of Men? What is the the effect of the increasingly co-ed workplace, where Americans spend so much time with potential partners? What of changing religious norms or shifting economic conditions? What of shifting geographic patterns, as wealthier Americans move into denser areas, and the suburbs become poorer?