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What We Talk About When We Talk About Finding Love Online

Modern love is, well, complicated. Or is it? Once upon a time, young people found love locally, marrying school sweethearts, neighbors, or friends from work. But over the last two decades, the internet has changed the dynamics of finding love, so much so that the assertion it has complicated the rose-petal path to love does have a ring of truth to it.

For one thing, online dating websites have vastly expanded the pool of potential partners. It’s now possible for a young person in New Jersey to search online and meet a young person in Oklahoma. It’s possible they’ll chat, meet, fall in love and marry. But with endless possibilities for matchups, dating becomes harder not easier.

“Today’s generations are looking (exhaustively) for soul mates, whether we decide to hit the altar or not, and we have more opportunities than ever to find them,” writes comedian Aziz Ansari in Time. “The biggest changes have been brought by the $2.4 billion online-dating industry, which has exploded in the past few years with the arrival of dozens of mobile apps. Throw in the fact that people now get married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined, and you have a recipe for romance gone haywire.”

But online data services also are trying to simplify the process. Websites like eHarmony have promoted their use of algorithms to match people based on hobbies, interests, likes, and dislikes. They aim to streamline the search for love and make it less random than simply heading to the local bar. Tinder, for example, makes it easy to find dates who live nearby.
And yet, only 20% of U.S. single adults say they are registered on a dating site, according to a new survey by ReportLinker.

That’s a surprisingly small percentage, particularly because the buzz around online dating has been steady since Match.com, one of the first services, launched in 1995. But there’s a reason: More than half of US single adults say they view the services negatively, and women especially are more likely to be skeptical about using dating apps.

For many, the drawbacks include the lack of seriousness and the fact that it’s all too easy to misrepresent who you really are.

Still, those who do use online dating services say they belong to 2.4 websites on average, ReportLinker found. The most popular services among all US single adults are Tinder (42% of mentions), Match.com (32% of mentions), Plenty of Fish (26% of mentions) and OkCupid (25% of mentions). Tinder is most popular with Millennials, 70% of whom mention using it.

And not many are willing to pay for the services either. Almost three-quarters of US users overall say they only use the free versions of online dating sites, ReportLinker says, with Millennials and Tinder users even less likely to pay for an upgraded account.

The truth is, there are many other places where US single adults can find love. When asked how they meet potential dates, survey respondents most frequently mentioned being introduced by friends (58% of mentions), ReportLinker found. Bars, coffee shops and other public areas were the next, with 37% of mentions, followed by the workplace and events or hobbies (each were mentioned 27% of the time). Single men were more likely to mention looking for love at sporting or religious events (33% of mentions), while young Millennials are more likely to turn to their friends for help (63% of mentions).

Finding true love is the primary motivation for using an online dating website or app, ReportLinker found. This was mentioned 60% of the time among online dating users, followed by meeting new friends (41% of mentions) and hookups (34% of mentions).
Not surprisingly, men and women have vastly different reasons for using online dating. Men are more likely to be looking for a hookup, while women most often mention they’d like to find lasting love.

When looking for love online, 25% of respondents to the ReportLinker survey say age is the most important criteria. After that, they look at level of education and employment, before turning their attention to physical appearance.

Still, this hasn’t stopped startups from mining data about appearances. FaceDate, a new mobile dating app created by Ph.D. students at New Jersey Institute of Technology, uses a face recognition algorithm to match people based on facial features rather than profile data. Users can train the app to match their preferences by uploading images of faces they find attractive.
For those who have been successful at finding love, online dating sites offer much less of an appeal. Marriage is still the dominant relationship status in the US, with 60% of respondents saying they are married, the ReportLinker survey found. The rate is higher among older generations, 86% of whom say they’re married. By contrast, more Millennials (68%) say they’re in a relationship compared to those saying they are married.

Further good news is that relationships, whether the couple is married or not, seem to last. Almost half of US respondents to the ReportLinker survey have been together for more than seven years. Married respondents are more likely to have a longer relationship (73% are married for more than 7 years) compared to those who mentioned being in relationship for less than 3 years. And loyalty reigns: Just 6% of respondents who are married or in a relationship say they haven’t yet suspended their online dating account.

In fact, 61% of Americans who are married or in a relationship say they have a negative view of online dating. But that could be because most people have had better luck with other methods of finding love. Respondents mentioned meeting their spouse or significant other through friends (39% of mentions), followed by at work or in bars. Just 8% said they met their spouse or partner using online dating.

As it turns out, when it comes to finding love, it is complicated. But while the internet has changed our search for “the one,” it hasn’t obliterated tried and true methods. Instead, it’s just one more path strewn with rose petals.

 

These two surveys conducted by ReportLinker reached 501 online respondents representative of the US population, mentioning they are singles, widowed or divorced and 551 online respondents being married or in a relationship. Interviews were conducted between January, 24th and January, 31st 2017.