Researchers have found the answer to love and it only takes two seconds to download. All you need to meet your next partner is a physical, emotional and Internet connection. At least, this is the case for more than 41 million love birds in the United States and countless more around the world.
New resources for finding love like mobile dating apps and online forums, have grown substantially in the last few years. And more interestingly, so has public perception.
According to Pew Research Center in Washington D.C, the percentage of Internet users that feel online dating is a good way to meet people went up 15 percent in 2013. Similarly, the number of users that think online dating allows people to meet a better match went from 47 percent to 53 percent in recent years.
A Generational, Digital Divide
“It is a generational thing,” says Maeve Duggan, an assistant researcher at Pew Research Center. “Younger people have had cellphones and the Internet their entire lives growing up and it’s going to be a part of how they navigate their relationships in general.”
Mobile apps and online dating could be weeding out the values of their parents and grandparents when it comes to traditional dating.
Now, technology users of all ages could just be a few clicks away from finding their happily ever after. And this trend is just getting started.
Clicking on "The One"
Whitney Sheffield is a 28-year-old religious counselor at the University of Georgia. Sheffield used online dating forums for only a few months before she clicked on “the one.”
“I’m engaged to the man of my dreams,” says Sheffield. Even though her online match, Seth, lives hours away from her home in Athens, Georgia, there was more than an Internet connection when they first met.
“We began to see each other every weekend, and fairly quickly we started talking about the future. It was just easy,” she says. “I knew what I was looking for, and when I found his profile I could tell that we had similar interests.”
Their online love affair escalated quickly. The couple got engaged just months after meeting each other.
“I was so surprised!” Sheffield says. “I can’t wait to marry him!”
According to Pew research, stories like Sheffield’s are not uncommon. In fact, 6 in ten Americans know of someone who has used online dating services or online dating apps. And of those Americans, 29 percent know someone who is now in a long-term relationship because of them.
The Traditional Courtship
But the question remains, is traditional dating a thing of the past?
Not yet says research assistant, Duggan. There are still those who see online dating as negative claiming that it looks “desperate” or “keeps people from settling down.”
But for many, it goes back to the idea that more people are becoming comfortable with technology in everyday lives. Duggan adds that it is important to be safe on the Internet and when using these dating apps.
Even if people aren’t necessarily using dating apps, half of Americans have smart phones and have used the Internet to search for people and/or have used applications to communicate with others. The majority of these app users are mid-twenties to mid-forties.
She believes this trend will only increase.
Recent University of Georgia graduate, Darien LaBeach, uses Tinder regularly to meet others. The transition from college life to working life was a big jump for him and he says he didn't have time to meet as many people as he used to.
“I used Tinder to go on lots of dates. When I first moved to Atlanta, I didn’t know a lot of people. So I downloaded the app, met a lot of cool girls, and got to explore my new city more.”
Even on his abroad trip to London, he met many of the locals by using the location services device on the app.
The World Wide Web of Dating
It's not just Americans using these online dating forums. Italy, England, Australia, Sweden and China have all plugged in to the dating world. There are even successful niche sites that pair people by race, sexual orientation, or religion.
Another student from the University of Georgia, Alex Moosariparambil says this trend differs greatly from dating practices in his home country of India. He says in India it is still custom for the family to be involved in relationships, and that dating apps would “shock” some of his friends. He admits his values and ideas about dating reflect his cultural beliefs but he says he understands this trend.
“So much is done online now, why wouldn’t dating be? Even though my family and friends still have traditional values, I can see how this is popular,” he says.
The Business of Love
Popularity is increasing so much that dating businesses are profiting from it too.
8at8 is a member only matchmaking company that does the dirty work for their clients. It pairs four men and four women for a dinner date at eight o’clock. The company also offers one on one consultation where they pair potential partners for a date night, taking away all the confusion that online dating may cause. Like many online services, they match singles based on age, background, hobbies, and interests in a low-pressure environment.
The company has a huge success rate, with more than 300 marriages and countless first dates under their belt. Hailey Martin is a date planner at 8at8 and describes the company as “a personal trainer for your love life.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal opinion.
But with almost half of Americans in agreement that online dating is a “good thing”- it’s clear that clicking for love is not stopping anytime soon.
So if you’re looking for love— plug-in, click away and join the trend.
On the fence about trying it out? Take this quiz to see how your views about online dating stack up to others.
Read Emily's blog post on how she developed her first Journey article here
About the Author
Emily Curl is a