Once upon a time, in those dark days of dial-up, online dating sites were anathemas of the internet. To use one was a shady operation; lest you become a social pariah, it was imperative that you keep schtum about your use. Fast-forward 20 years and behold! We have broadband, we have fancy mumbo-jumbo phones AND online dating is more regular than toast. If anything, toast is less regular now; with raw food diets being all the rage, those glutens in your non-gluten free bread are basically the rogues we once thought were lurking behind the screens trying to blag a date.
So how did this happen? Research shows that 1 in 5 couples have met online, and the strength and scale of the industry is set to grow further. Julia Llewellyn-Smith suggests that the stigma once attached to the industry has been quashed, in part, due to the ‘cash-rich, time-poor professionals who already do everything from shop to socialise online [and] now see a search engine as the obvious gateway to love.’ This generation of trend-setters, she says, have been, ‘scarred by their parents’ (or their own) divorces’ and are pragmatic when it comes to finding love. In an age where we are more in control of our own destinies than ever before, it makes sense that we would approach dating in this way; perhaps we are more defiant in our choices, seeking less approval or assistance from our peers and families. Why rely on someone else to set us up on a date when we can do it ourselves, with the simple click of a button?
Embracing the world of online dating is also good news for the quality of our relationships, according to psychologists at Chicago University. In a recent study they found that marriages which began online had a greater chance of success, concluding that it was the ‘sheer number of available potential partners’ on dating sites or social media pages that led to their findings. The ‘shared values’ of people found online; the very fact that a couple are immediately set on a level playing field by simply signing up, is further evidence that their relationship is likely to be successful.
So the public consensus matches the academic research; both admit that online dating has dramatically shifted the way we connect, arguably for the better. As sites have developed, tackling issues like safety and the accuracy of user profiles, our collective faith in what we expect from meeting someone in this way has changed. Perhaps thats exactly it – we’re finding these relationships as satisfying (or more so) than the ones we make in real life, since we’ve gone in with a little faith. We’re all attracting the right kind of relationship by going into these things with an open mind, an open heart, and an idea of what it is we’re looking for; the perfect recipe for any healthy relationship.