This Is What We’re Actually Using The Internet For

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The number of Americans using Internet dating services has tripled over the last five years, says a detailed new survey by the Pew Internet Project. Based on interviews with 2,252 American adults, the survey also found a few ways in which dating in the Internet age differs for men and women.

Undesirable contact and outright harassment are considerably bigger issues for women who date online. 42% of female survey respondents say they've been subjected to unwanted approaches, compared to only 17% of men who say the same. The same goes for social networking sites, where 33% of women and only 19% of men say they've blocked someone who was making them feel uncomfortable.

Though those differences aren't insignificant, both sexes also have plenty in common. Men and women have similar success rates when dating online. 22% of online daters, regardless of gender, say they found a long-term relationship or a marriage using Internet dating services. Both men and women are also equally likely (54%) to complain about being misled by someone whose profile was deceptive.

And what the sexes really agree on is what they're actually using the Internet for: snooping. When Pew conducted its last major study on the role of the Internet in Americans' love lives, using search engines and social networking sites to keep tabs on exes and investigate future romantic prospects was not nearly the phenomenon it is now. That was back in 2005, before Facebook had officially become available to the general public and before smartphone usage had exploded.

Now, with those and many more technological innovations, it has become infinitely easier to get our snoop on. Just 11% of daters admitted to conducting online searches for information about dates in 2005. Now nearly a quarter of Internet users (24%) say they are guilty of researching dates and the number goes up (38%) if they're actively involved in the dating scene. 29% say they have searched online for information about someone they are currently dating or are considering dating, a number that was only 13% in 2005.

6 out of 10 Americans are now users of social networking services, which we have also turned into tools for stalking former flames. 1 in 3 say they've visited an ex-partner's profile to see what they've been up to. 30% of social network users who are active daters report using such services to collect intel on potential partners as well. For Internet users aged 18 to 29, that number jumps to 41%.

Like it or not, most of us have snooped at one point or another and it begs the question: which would we be more willing to give up, our ability to find new partners on the Internet, or our ability to find out about partners on the Internet?