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But the fear that online dating is changing us, collectively, that it's creating unhealthy habits and preferences that aren't in our best interests, is being driven more by paranoia than it is by actual facts.
"There are a lot of theories out there about how online dating is bad for us," Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Stanford who has been conducting a long-running study of online dating, told me the other day.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You have one of the most unique data sets about modern romance. Well, one of the first things you have to know to understand how dating — or really courtship rituals, since not everyone calls it dating — has changed over time is that the age of marriage in the United States has increased dramatically over time.
There are online sites that cater to hookups, sure, but there are also online sites that cater to people looking for long-term relationships.
What’s more, many people who meet in the online sites that cater to hookups end up in long-term relationships.
We see this in consumer goods — if there are too many flavors of jam at the store, for instance, you might feel that it’s just too complicated to consider the jam aisle, you might end up skipping it all together, you might decide it's not worth settling down with one jam. I don’t think that that theory, even if it’s true for something like jam, applies to dating.
And that’s not the life that young people lead anymore.
The age of first marriage is now in the late twenties, and more people in their 30s and even 40s are deciding not to settle down.
The rise of phone apps and online dating websites gives people access to more potential partners than they could meet at work or in the neighborhood.
I think these things are definitely characteristic of modern romance.
Part of what you have uncovered during your research is how drastic the rise of online dating has been.