The impact of online dating on our daily behaviour is pretty obvious: some lucky folks are finding the loves of their lives, sure, but many more are using it as an excuse to behave creepily towards others and treat them like crap. So, swings and roundabouts. But have you ever thought about the wider, big-picture impact of dating apps and websites? Us neither.
Well, a fascinating new piece of research highlights the influence of online dating on marriage rates and even the stability of marriage itself. By completely overhauling the way in which many of us meet our partners, online dating has made interracial marriage more commonplace. And not only that, but married couples who meet online tend to be stronger than those who meet in "traditional" ways.
In their paper, 'The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating', Josue Ortega from the University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich from the University of Vienna, examine how online dating has fundamentally altered the networks that link us together, reported Technology Review.
Academics have been studying these social ties for more than half a century and since dating sites came on the scene in the nineties, followed by dating apps in the 2010s, the way these ties are formed has changed completely.
Back in the day, the vast majority of people would meet their partners through loose social connections – people linked to their friendship group, through mutual friends, at church, through their families, etc. But this all changed with the advent of online dating.
While most heterosexual couples still meet their partners in this way, online dating is the second most common way, and for homosexual couples, online dating is by far the most popular – a trend with important social implications, the researchers suggest. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” Ortega and Hergovich say, which means new social links are created that didn't previously exist.
This has profound implications for the racial diversity of society, they argue. Interracial marriage is becoming more common in the age of online dating and while they still make up a small proportion of marriages in the US and it's impossible to say online dating caused the rise, the researchers say it's an important, interesting trend.
"It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” they say, and when Tinder emerged in 2012 the trend accelerated further.
They said: “Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” Technology Review reported.
What's more, research on the strength of marriage has suggested that couples who first meet online are stronger – namely, are less likely to break up – than those who meet in "traditional" ways, with potential benefits for society.
So, the next time you stumble upon someone on Tinder who's looking for a SO who's "prepared to lie about how we met", tell them where to get off. Be proud of how your relationship story, because pretty soon many of us will have a similar one.
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