It used to be that we met our beloved and future spouse through mutual friends or family members.
With the advent of online dating all that has changed.
And with it, the very fabric of society, according to a new research report.
Dating websites have changed the way couples meet. Now evidence is emerging that this change is influencing levels of interracial marriage and even the stability of marriage itself. These are the preliminary findings of Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria, as reported by MIT Technology Review.
Match.com went live in 1995, followed by others like Eharmony and OKCupid, and now we have a slew of dating websites. In 2012, the arrival of Tinder — the swipe mobile app version of online dating — revolutionized the whole dating scene. By 2013 more than one-third of marriages started out online.
These dating services have not only changed the way we meet a life partner, but have fundamentally changed social networks. The way we now connect with complete strangers is creating communities that were not connected before.
In the past, we met our partners through our immediate social networks through siblings and other family members, mutual friends, in bars, at work, at varsity or college, at church, and so on.
Online dating has changed this.
“People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Ortega and Hergovich. And when people meet in this way, it sets up social links that were previously nonexistent.
Taking into account that online dating is the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet and most popular way for homosexual couples to meet, these new social links have far-reaching implications for society.
Here’s the key point:
Our new social links are creating a more interracial society.
Ortega and Hergovich specifically looked at how online dating changes the racial diversity of society.
“Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies,” they say.
The researchers simulated what happens when extra links are introduced into a social network. When they add random links between people from different ethnic groups, the level of interracial marriage changes dramatically.
“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,” say Ortega and Hergovich.
Interestingly, existing increases in interracial marriage coincided with the advent of digital dating services.
“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” say the researchers.
This is not to say that online dating caused the rise in interracial marriages, but it is consistent with the hypothesis that it would do so.
Another thing: couples who met online form strong relationships.
Ortega and Hergovich’s model also predicts that married couples who initially met online form stronger relationships and are less likely to divorce than couples who didn’t meet online. This prediction is in line with research conducted in 2013.
These are impactful findings of how technology has been and is continuing to change society, this time for the better.