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With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, you might be thinking it’s time to give online dating a try.  If so, you’re not alone—according to data from the Pew Research Center, 22 percent of Americans aged 25-34 and 17 percent of those aged 35-44 have used an online dating site or mobile app.  But how do all those online daters fare out in the real world, in the long term?  Do those much-hyped “dating algorithms” actually produce better matches than the traditional ways people have met?

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A paper published in 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America by John T. Cacioppo et al. sought to answer that very question.  The authors conducted a survey of 19,131 Americans who got married between 2005 and 2012—and over a third of those relationships began online, which in itself is a dramatic finding.

And those unions, according to the analysis, actually do differ from the unions of people who meet offline. Specifically, couples who meet online are both less likely to break up and report higher levels of marital satisfaction. The authors suggest four reasons as to why this might be the case:

  1. “Individuals who met their spouse on-line may differ, for example, in personality (e.g., impulsivity), but are motivated to form a long-term marital relationship.”
  2. “The larger pool of potential spouses…on-line…permitted these individuals to be more selective in identifying a compatible partner.”
  3. “Differences in self-disclosure between on-line and off-line venues, and the differences among on-line (and among offline) venues, may contribute to the observed differences in marital outcomes.”
  4. “Among on-line dating sites, it is also possible that the various matching algorithms may play a role in marital outcomes.”

Regardless of the mechanism, two things are clear: more and more Americans are meeting their spouses online and those marriages are pretty solid.  The Internet, in the words of the authors, “may be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself.”

So go ahead, take the plunge.  Although you might want to enlist a friend to help with your profile—the data from the Pew Research Center indicates that 22 percent of online daters have asked a friend for help crafting the perfect profile.


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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 110, No. 25 (June 18, 2013), pp. 10135-10140
National Academy of Sciences