Saturday, July 13, 2013

Internet dating

In 1995, local newspapers started reporting the first weddings of couples who, they revealed with breathless amazement, "ACTUALLY MET ON THE INTERNET!". 

It seemed freakish then. 

No sly glance across a crowded room, no awkward conversation steered round to that coy invitation for a first date. 

No setting eyes on someone before you asked them out. Instead, an online profile and maybe an email.

Today, partnerships made on the internet are not only commonplace, but fast becoming the standard way you meet your future spouse. 

New research shows that more and more couples are meeting online and marrying. 

In the US, a University of Chicago study shows that more than a third of those who married between 2005 and 2012 met online, up from 19 per cent just five years ago.

So why are more and more of Britain's 16 million singles turning to the internet? 

How – and why – does it work? 

And why do encounters fostered on-screen have a record, as they do, of making happier marriages? 

There are basically two sorts of online romantic experiences. 

First there are people who locate each other using Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, MSN Messenger, chatrooms or virtual communities focusing on particular interests or concerns. 

And second there are what you might call computer-assisted relationships, where online dating sites match people after they've completed a questionnaire. 

Shared values and aspirations are given far more weight than liking the same kind of music or both being into, say, cycling.

30s and 40s are the key internet daters. 

They tend to look for similar interests. 

People will say 'Oh, we clicked because we both liked cage fighting,' and that's fine, but to make a successful relationship you need more than common interests."

But whether a successful relationship came via self-started online encounters or dating sites, it was vital that they had a lengthy "getting to know you" period of emails and phone calls before they met face to face. 

Many couples felt that online dating took some of the "hit and miss" out of meeting a partner. 

On dating websites you have to give details, and the matching might eliminate some potential future problems before you even get going with the person, whereas when you meet naturally a powerful initial attraction might mask problems in the future.

The problem with meeting someone online is that you don't have any context for them. 

If you meet someone through work, you can ask around and find out that he's already married, or find out if he's a ladies' man. 

Online there's no context. 

Sometimes a context makes it easier to relax and trust them.

But there is another powerful pull towards online dating. 

You are, for example, 30, 40, or 50-something, employed and single. 

You're never likely to be mistaken for a film star, but you're presentable, well groomed, and with no obvious anti-social habits. 

So where do you go to find romance? 

Offline, you might meet a dozen potential partners in a year. 

Go online, and the pool you're fishing in is immense. 

The latest figures show nearly six million Britons are using internet dating sites, an increase of 22 per cent over the year before.

Not all of them are honest. 

Many internet daters report people who lie about their weight, height, drinking or smoking. 

And a 2005 University of Chicago study of 23,000 users of dating sites found 75 per cent of men claimed "above-average looks" – not a percentage many women would corroborate. 

And then there are the serial philanderers 

The early adopters of online dating tended to be the technically very savvy, who shared what one might call a certain geeky mindset. 

The new University of Chicago study found those who met their spouse online reported higher marital satisfaction than those who did not. (And, incidentally, those meeting offline at school, church, or social occasions had higher levels of satisfaction than those who met their partner through work, family, bar, club or blind date.)

People who meet online tend to be a bit older and a lot of divorced or separated people tend to go online. 

When you're young or in a football team or something it happens more rapidly, so you don't need to look online. 

The later you marry the more likely you are to stay together. 

You're more mature, you have more experience and you know yourself better. 

You are more able to have a mature, long-lasting relationship the better you know yourself.

We think if we find someone we click with on a deep, fundamental level all our problems will slip away, everything will be sorted and we don't need any relationship skills, like learning to compromise. 

But that isn't the case. 

The problem on the net is, because there's no context, that fantasy is alive and well and breathing. 

And because there are so many people online, we think we'll find our soul-mate. 

Whereas people who are 50-plus and have had an unfortunate marriage have learned a whole load of skills about having a good relationship. 

They're not expecting a perfect soul-mate.

It's likely that, soon, the majority of people will be meeting their future spouse online. 

And the major reason?


In our modern world few people have much time or energy to hang out looking for a partner

Our lives keep us running from morning to night in the week

At weekends it is catch up time

With maybe going out for a few hours on Saturday night

The internet has changed this

It enhances our chances of meeting someone.

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