Love in the Time of Algorithms

More Americans Than Ever Are Dating Online So Stop Being Weird About It

"Online dating has become much more culturally accepted in recent years."
Just saying! (Photo: MTV)

Just saying! (Photo: MTV)

If you met your significant other online, you’re probably used to hearing at parties, “Oh, I know a lot of people who’ve met online, it’s not even weird anymore.” Uh, thanks?

Well, today the Pew Internet and American Life project joined the chorus of awkwardly phrased reassurances, with a new report about online dating.

Turns out 42 percent of Americans now know someone who’s tried out online dating–and that’s a 31 percent jump from 2005. Almost a third know someone who found a long-term partner or spouse, up 15 percent since 2005. 59 percent of all Internet users now agree that “online dating is a good way to meet people.”

Feeling validated yet, Tinderella? Well, a mere 21 percent of Internet users now say online dating is the province of the desperate, down 8 points from 2005.

Nor does the Internet’s impact on romance stop at Match.com: 29 percent of Internet users admitted they’ve gone online to do their due diligence on a new romance or upcoming date, and 24 percent admit to flirting online.

“When we conducted our first study of dating and relationships in the digital era just under a decade ago, the public had little exposure to online dating, and most viewed people who went online to meet potential romantic partners with a healthy dose of skepticism,” said Aaron Smith, who is a Pew senior researcher and not your cousin’s friend trying not to sound awkward at that birthday party last week.

“Although some of that skepticism remains, online dating has become much more culturally accepted in recent years,” he added, before excusing himself to find another beer/any other conversation.

That’s thanks in no small part to the fact loads of Americans are dating online: 11 percent of Americans have tried either an online dating site or app. All told, 38 percent of single Americans searching for a soul mate have given it a try. 23 percent of online daters have landed a spouse or at least a significant other for their efforts.

Weirdly, though, only 66 percent of online daters have actually followed through to the point of going on a date, which ought to make you feel better about all the messages you’ve sent out with zero response.

It’s not all virtual roses and champagne, though: 28 percent of online daters report that they’ve been contacted “in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable.” The breakdown of complaints by gender won’t surprise any of you ladies who’ve spent more than 15 minutes on OK Cupid: 42 percent women vs. 17 percent men.

There’s also the prospect of opening the door to see Nev and Max pointing a camera in your face: 54 percent of daters charge that someone has “seriously misrepresented themselves” on their profile. Don’t get catfished, kids, or you’ll end up a horror story instead of an awkwardly framed but fundamentally reassuring cocktail party anecdote.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com