Only a few years ago, people would keep quiet or even fabricate elaborate lies to keep the world from knowing they met their partner online.
There was a cultural stigma (which was silly).
Now, far from carrying with it a sad and shameful reputation, online dating has exploded thanks to apps such as Tinder.
With one third of marriages starting online today, it is not necessarily a stretch to say that online dating is changing the fabric of society – and one study suggests just.
The research found there are more interracial relationships since online dating begun:
The findings suggests that online dating has bridged connections between people that may not have existed prior.
Whereas a few years ago, you might be able to date a friend of a friend if you were resourceful, now your pool of potential partners is only limited by your internet connection.
To test the influence of online dating on society, economists Josue Ortega and Philipp Hergovich modelled society as a web of interlinked nodes, showing relationships between individuals.
Most people are strongly connected with about a hundred nodes, which include close friends and family, and are weakly connected with others.
The researchers simulated what happens when random links are introduced to these networks – just like online dating – and found the level of interracial marriages rises dramatically. They explain in the paper:
Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small.
We used to marry people to which we were somehow connected to: friends of friends, schoolmates, neighbours.
Since we were more connected to people similar to us, we were likely to marry someone from our own race.
Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies
In the US, rates of interracial marriage have slowly been on the increase since the turn of the 21st century – and researchers argue that the rise came with the introduction of the first dating websites such as Match.com in 1995.
In fact, during the early 2000s, the percentage of interracial marriages in the US increased from 11 per cent to 16 per cent. In 2014, the proportion jumped once again, an increase to 17 per cent that the researchers point out came shortly after the creation of Tinder.
Now, online dating is the second most common way to meet an new partner for heterosexual couples, just behind ‘met through friends’. For homosexual couples, it takes a strong first place.
Of course, there are other factors that can explain the increase of interracial marriages, including increased diversity in society. However, the researchers argue that this alone is not enough to explain the trend.
The change in the population composition in the U.S. cannot explain the huge increase in intermarriage that we observe.
Online dating may even make relationships stronger
As well as breaking down boundaries and connecting communities, online dating may even strengthen long-term relationships.
Ortega’s and Hergovich’s simulation predicted that marriages created at the time that online dating becomes available last longer; this is backed by a 2013 study that found marriages created online were less likely to break up.
It is nice to have some evidence that the online world is not just dividing and polarising us, but is bringing us closer too.