Research Indicates Online Dating Is Creating Stronger, More Diverse Marriages

Marriage
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Online dating has been accused of ruining romance, fueling hook-up culture, spreading STDs, promoting superficiality, undermining marriage, eroding traditional values, and that’s just a scratch in the surface of the critiques levied against modern matchmaking.

But for all the complaining we’ve done - and likely will continue to do - about online dating, it’s not all doom and gloom. Recent research suggests the rise of digital dating services could be behind stronger marriages, more connections between people from different social circles, and an increase in interracial partnerships.

Economists Josue Ortega at the University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria set out to examine how today’s tech-savvy singles are changing society.

“I realized that all my students were using Tinder, which sounded to me like some kind of scam. I started reading about it, and was really surprised to find it’s very popular in the UK and US, because there’s this sense that Tinder and other platforms are just for hookups," Ortega told Forbes.

"When I came across the statistic that one third of marriages start online, and 70% of gay relationships, I was shocked," he continued. "And the more I talked to people, the more I heard that they'd met their partners on Tinder and other sites."

Ortega and Hergovich crunched the numbers to discover exactly how the internet has influenced modern dating, developing a theoretical framework and mathematical models to parse decades’ worth of data. After running 10,000 simulations, they concluded that online dating could help explain the recent greater-than-predicted rise in interracial marriages.

The pair published their findings in an article entitled "The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating", writing:

“We observe that the number of interracial marriages has consistently increased in the last 50 years, as it has been documented by several other authors. However, 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. The increase becomes steeper around 2004 when online dating became more popular.”

Online dating is successful in large part because in provides a wide pool of potential matches - far wider than one could ever encounter in offline life. It’s beneficial as a sheer numbers game, but also because it does not rely on our immediate social circles, which are often ethnically similar to us. By meeting people outside your social network, you naturally increase the chance of meeting a romantic interest outside your race.

Ortega and Hergovich also discovered, based on 2013 data from the National Academy of Sciences, that marriages founded on online dating were less likely to break up within the first year, and that partners who met online reported a higher degree of satisfaction in their relationships.

"Online dating is seen as too superfluous and trivial," Ortega concluded to Forbes, "and it has more important effects than most of us expected."

Perhaps it’s time for the tired old narrative around digital dating change.