Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

More People Than Ever Finding Dates (and Sometimes Love!) Online

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According to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, released yesterday, “5% of Americans who are currently married or in a long-term partnership met their partner somewhere online. Among those who have been together for ten years or less, 11% met online.” The study also found that 59% of American internet users believe that “online dating is a good way to meet people,” up from 44% in 2005. Still, more than half of online daters say that “someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile.” And 21% of American internet users think that “people who use online dating sites are desperate” (down from 29% eight years ago).

It might help, Amanda Hess from Slate argues, if we begin merging online dating with the rest of our online social profiles and platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. And people are starting to do just that. There’s an app called Tinder — which we’ve talked about a little here — that connects people to potential match’s Facebook profiles where they can see how they publicly present themselves and whether they have friends in common. It also helps, as Hess says, that, “in order to message someone on Tinder, you both have to ‘choose’ each other, so you’re not inundated with missives from the creepiest users. (Pew also found that 42 percent of female online daters and 17 percent of male ones have experienced “uncomfortable or bothersome contact” on Internet dating sites.)”

But, aren’t online daters — also known as “regular people” — already merging their dating lives and their public online profiles? It’s been over seven years since I was single and looking, but even back in those olden days, I connected with potential dates on Myspace (remember that?), Friendster (and that??), and even my personal blog, which was linked to all my social profiles. Guys — some of whom I had friends in common with and some I didn’t — might find me on a social platform and then follow the link to my blog, read for a while, and then email me through my blog address. They may have been attracted to the photo they saw on the social platform and then liked my writing well enough — or liked what they imagined me to be like through reading my blog — to reach out.

That actually was a pretty good way to meet potential dates (and new friends). Through my blog I was able to present myself in a much broader way than I could through a small profile on a dating site. In fact, even though Drew and I met through a mutual friend who put us in touch, I think my blog helped us connect before we were able to meet face-to-face. He got to read about me in a way that wasn’t creepy and then email me with follow-up questions and conversation-starters based on stuff I’d written, which allowed for us to have some pretty great email banter in the weeks before we met.

But that’s just one way to bypass dating sites and still connect with potential dates. I know there are plenty of other ways — message boards, hobby sites, listservs, meetups organized online, Facebook group pages. If I ever meet a couple who says they met “online,” I don’t automatically assume they mean a traditional dating site like Match.com or OkCupid — not that there’s anything wrong with that. With all the different ways there are to connect online, I’m actually surprised only 11% of couples who have been together less than 10 years say they met on the internet. I predict in the next decade, we will see that number double. And while I don’t think, like Hess does, that traditional dating sites are anywhere close to going extinct, I do think we will see a huge increase in the number of people who meet their mates online through sites and platforms whose purposes are not solely to create matches.

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All that said, it’s noteworthy to mention that social platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are creating an enormous amount of relationship stress and anxiety, especially in young people:

As more and more Americans use social networking sites, these spaces can become the site of potential tension or awkwardness around relationships and dating. Some 27% of all social networking site users have unfriended or blocked someone who was flirting in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, and 22% have unfriended or blocked someone that they were once in a relationship with. These sites can also serve as a lingering reminder of relationships that have ended — 17% of social networking site users have untagged or deleted photos on these sites of themselves and someone they used to be in a relationship with.

Additionally, 48% of SNS users ages 18-29 — have “gone on these sites to check up on someone they used to date or be in a relationship with, and 31% have posted details or pictures from a date on a social networking site. For better or worse, the internet is the meat market for today’s youth (and the not-so-young). It’s the soda fountain our parents and grandparents used to meet and mingle in. It’s the neighborhood bar or bowling alley where people hang out and buy each other a drink. It’s where friendships are made, relationships are begun (“15% of SNS users with recent dating experience have asked someone out on a date using a social networking site”), and, inevitably, hearts are broken. And if none of that appeals to you, don’t worry; there’re also lots of videos of cats.

33 comments… add one
  • llclarityll October 22, 2013, 12:41 pm

    “32% of people feel that online dating keeps people from settling down.” I’m surprised it’s that high — but I can kind of see where people are coming from if they view online dating as casual.

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    • TECH October 22, 2013, 12:46 pm

      Well, I think we live in a culture that is very disposable. A lot people will go on a date with a person who is nice, but they think they’re missing something, so they keep going on dates they find online. It’s basically like, “Oh well, the first person I met was just alright. But that’s okay, I’ll just log online and message another person who will go on a date with me.” It’s almost like it has become so easy to find dates online that people don’t place as much value on it?

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      • llclarityll October 22, 2013, 12:50 pm

        Yes I agree — disposable is a good word. It becomes way to easy to sift through other potential “suitors” and not settle down because online dating creates this air of “there’s always something better around the corner.” I’d think it would create a lot of self-doubt — like, there are all of these men at my fingertips, how do I know that this guy is the right one to settle down with?

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 1:58 pm


        For some reason this reminds me of all the “my BF has an online dating account again, HALP!” topics I’ve seen. Maybe on DW? I know I’ve seen the same thing over and over again. But I think that kind of behavior is a result of how disposable suitors are with online dating.

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 3:09 pm

        I posted this down below but meant to post it here where it’s slightly more relevant:

        OK, while we’re on this subject, can I take a poll? One of my good friends is dating a guy she met on Match. They met over 2 years ago, but because she rejected him after they met a few times because she wanted to work things out with her on/off boyfriend. They stayed friendly, and began dating exclusively (long distance) in June. She found out he still regularly looks at other girls on Match out of boredom (she brought up the subject, he admitted that he does it), but says it’s no big deal.

        Red flag or totally normal?

        (And yes, I have lots of friends with lots of issues. I should tell them to come to DW, but then I’d have to stop talking about them. )

      • Eljay October 22, 2013, 2:04 pm

        I agree with this also. I’ve noticed that the guys I’ve gone out with absolutely see women they meet online as being disposable. The first sign of a disagreement or misunderstanding and they’re off to the next profile. It’s so frustrating. No one wants to have a conversation anymore. They hear something they don’t necessarily agree with, and instead of talking about it, they run like scared little rabbits. So frustrating.

  • kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Is it weird that I’m sort of….sad that I missed out on the “experience” of online dating sites? My friends always come back with good stories. I know I’m romanticizing the experience, but it seems like it’s sort of fun! My SIL went on 30 dates in 30 days before she met my brother. He only met 5 people online before he met her (and now they’re married!).

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    • GatorGirl October 22, 2013, 12:55 pm

      I sort of feel this way too. I met GGuy at 21 and have always wondered about dating as a grown up in addition to online dating. I have little interest in actually dating anyone, but I feel like it’s a part of my 20’s I sort of missed.

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    • Fabelle October 22, 2013, 12:58 pm

      I swing wildly on this issue— like, I read about you guys’s (?) experiences on here, & feel kinda horrified? All that stranger socialization would be crazy for me, I think I’d burn out quick as hell. BUT on the other hand, it seems sort of cool & exciting? And like GG, I’ve never really “dated”— I had plenty of wild experiences while single, but I never actually DATED (mostly because I liked being single, & didn’t really ~want~ a S/O, but I guess it would be cool to try in theory)

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    • kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

      See I actually did “date” in college. I had plenty of flings, but I had a lot of guys that I went on proper dates with for weeks at a time and determined whether I wanted a relationship with them or not. If a guy wanted to spend time with me then we had to do something. I also had months where I was single. By the time I was 22 I was DONE. I had a million weird stories and I was actually ready to settle down. So I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, but online dating sounds like a fun adventure 🙂

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      • ktfran October 22, 2013, 1:15 pm

        I’m use to dating how you describe, and luckily, I’m meeting people who like to date that way.

        With that said, I’ve been on OkCupid a couple times. It’s kind of ridiculous. Good stories? Of course. One guy basically had us married before a second date. I ended that quick and blocked him. One of my friends ran across his profile and he changed it to basically diss me because we “had a connection.”

        Anyway, I don’t care much for on-line dating. Not to say I won’t do it again. I just prefer not to.

      • GatorGirl October 22, 2013, 1:30 pm

        Yeah, I didn’t date in college. I had a BF for 3 years of it (Freshman fall to Senior fall) then had a few months of random hook ups, then started dating GGuy. And the BF started as a hooking up and deciding exclusive, so yeah I’ve only ever been on a date with my now husband. haha.

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 1:38 pm

        In college, a date for me was like… going to a frat formal, drinking, making out and/or passing out on the bus ride back to the frat house, and maybe eating a 3am burrito or chimichanga. Sooo romantic. I didn’t have any serious relationships until I met my college/grad school boyfriend as a senior (but it didn’t even get serious until after college?), and it doesn’t bother me that most of my experiences were casual relationships. I loved college. Haha.

      • kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 1:42 pm

        I had a lot of those until like…late junior year? I think I also got lucky and met a bunch of guys who asked me on real dates. And sometimes I dated guys in their late 20s who were out of college so they were used to normal dating as well.

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 1:48 pm

        Off the top of my head I think I went on two “real” dates in college that weren’t with College Boyfriend. The first was my very first week of college (aw) and the second was when a guy I’d been non-dating wanted to break up (and completely failed to actually break up with me, so I had to go home and dissect our dinner with my roommate). Ha.

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 3:07 pm

        OK, while we’re on this subject, can I take a poll? One of my good friends is dating a guy she met on Match. They met over 2 years ago, but because she rejected him after they met a few times because she wanted to work things out with her on/off boyfriend. They stayed friendly, and began dating exclusively (long distance) in June. She found out he still regularly looks at other girls on Match out of boredom (she brought up the subject, he admitted that he does it), but says it’s no big deal.

        Red flag or totally normal?

        (And yes, I have lots of friends with lots of issues. I should tell them to come to DW, but then I’d have to stop talking about them. :))

      • GatorGirl October 22, 2013, 3:33 pm

        I think it’s weird, but I’ve never online dated so maybe not?

      • iwannatalktosampson October 22, 2013, 3:48 pm

        I think it’s weird. I mean that’s just like admitting that every time you’re out in public you check out girls out of boredom. Creepy.

      • KMJ October 22, 2013, 3:59 pm

        red flag. If you say you’re dating exclusively why are you still searching for someone else?

        I met the guy I’m seeing online and when we said we were not dating other people he deleted his profile. (I had long before b/c the other people I met on there were “separated” married men and I had enough.)

      • Copa October 22, 2013, 4:12 pm

        I think it’s weird, too, even though my past boyfriend and I met online, and even after we became exclusive, he didn’t delete his account right away. I knew and didn’t care. His subscription still had a few months left to go, so he just let it. He got a kick out of the people “winking” at him and the weird messages he’d get… he’d show his friends, and sometimes even me. If I found out he’d continued to do that AFTER his subscription ended — like, when the only real purpose the unpaid version of the site is to read profiles & look at photos of local singles? — I’d have thought it was weird and red flaggy. And if the guy is like, “I was just bored,” it’s like… turn on the TV??? The only way to cure boredom is checking out other people? HUH!? Just knowing that an SO is routinely looking is weird to me. I’m surprised my friend laughed it off.

      • Fabelle October 22, 2013, 3:10 pm

        Now that I think about it, I did go on a few dates— but they weren’t, like, get-to-know-you dates? One time my FWB took me to a fancy dinner, then we looked out across the river in our car (I can’t remember whose car, we’d always take one & then let the other person drive it) & that was pretty date-like. But it wasn’t dating-to-find-a-partner dating, which is what I initially was like, “hmm never did that” about.

      • ktfran October 22, 2013, 2:51 pm

        I have friends in their 30s who have never been on “real” dates or what it’s like to be wooed. It makes me really sad.

      • kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 2:58 pm

        I just think it helps you get to know a person. Something I really liked about my current boyfriend is we went on dates and we were always trying new things or doing different stuff together. And he would actually call me and talk to me for 30 mins on the phone after work every day if we weren’t seeing each other. It was cool.

    • KKZ October 22, 2013, 1:12 pm

      This is one of the big downsides of marrying my h.s. boyfriend – I am perpetually curious about what I “missed out” on by not dating, even after hearing/reading about all the horror stories and disappointment and heartbreak that dating entails. I too think dating could be fun – maybe simply BECAUSE I’ve read so many letters, articles, and forum threads about it that I almost feel like I’d know what to look out for and how to go about it (but would probably fail spectacularly at following those rules anyway).

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      • kerrycontrary October 22, 2013, 1:25 pm

        yes it’s hard to do what you “should” do when feelings get in the way. A guy doesn’t call you and 10 texts later you’re on the train to crazy town even though you know you’re being insane. I had a ton of fun dating and getting to know different people though!

    • bethany October 22, 2013, 1:38 pm

      I kind of agree with you! I met my husband online, but he was only the 4th guy I went out with. I liked going on real dates or meeting a guy for coffee. It was a nice, fun way to meet new people.

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  • TECH October 22, 2013, 12:44 pm

    I think as long as you’re being safe, meeting people online is great — it just expands your options and puts you in touch with people you wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet. Like Wendy, I’m surprised that only 5% of married people met online. I would have thought the number would be higher.
    My only concern with the online world in general is that I worry people are becoming more disconnected from one another. And I’m not talking about dating specifically, but just human connection in general. I feel such a sense of community on Dear Wendy, but I don’t feel a sense of community with people that live on my street or live in my town — which is sad. We are surrounded by people every day, but yet how often do we make real connections with them?

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  • llclarityll October 22, 2013, 12:53 pm

    I gotta throw it out there that I don’t think SNS are replacing traditional dating venues/meet-up places for today’s youth like Wendy suggests. I see my young SIL and my nephew in environments every weekend ( at the skating rink, the pool, the basketbal court) that shows mingling and meeting are still very much alive.

    Maybe in some circumstances SNS become the clincher, the deal sealer, but I don’t think it’s replacing how youth interact and date.

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  • Lyra October 22, 2013, 1:18 pm

    These findings definitely don’t surprise me. I’m actually surprised the number isn’t higher. I’ve overall enjoyed dating as an adult out of college, especially because online dating allows you to almost “weed out” those that you don’t feel would make a good match.

    I do think online dating can be incredibly overwhelming though. It is a numbers game and if you want to get the most out of it you need to go out and meet people…LOTS of people. I found that a stream of first dates has left me burnt out. Sifting through profiles can feel like a daunting task. I found right away I was stoked by all the potential matches and would reach out to a bunch of different guys and go out with a bunch of guys. I’ve been going on mostly first dates for about two months now and it definitely isn’t as fun in October as it first was in August (and as many of you know after recent events am putting myself on a self-imposed dating hiatus). Finding a balance is important. I think maybe I had so much gusto to date ALL THE GUYS that now I want nothing to do with any of the guys. Balance, people.

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    • Copa October 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

      I found online dating really overwhelming. I’m not sure I’ll try it again even though I’d say my brief stint with it was positive and led to a nice relationship.

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      • iwannatalktosampson October 22, 2013, 4:10 pm

        How’re you doing and feeling? I’ve been thinking about you!

  • rachel October 22, 2013, 1:47 pm

    So, it’s funny, all 3 of my relationships have been with guys I have met online.

    My high school boyfriend messaged me on AOL, because he liked my profile, we had music in common. Now I’m showing how old I am, haha. Good old AOL.

    My college and after boyfriend, we knew each other online for a couple of years actually, through…some random social networking site that I don’t remember what it was called. We met in person as friends when he ended up living in the same town I went to college in, and started dating shortly after.

    My fiance and I met on okcupid.

    I think that coincidence is funny, but I never felt shame(d) about how I have met my boyfriends. I’ve dated guys I met other ways, just not long term.

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  • daisy October 22, 2013, 3:49 pm

    My fiance is the first and only guy I went out with after signing up for JDate. I am very proud of my 100% success rate! 😉

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