Users of Meetic, Tinder and other dating apps now number in the hundreds of millions. Many are frightened by it, worried about rampant abuse and scams, while others see it as another example of the evils and excesses of modern society. And yet, these dating sites have a great social utility.
Online dating provides a new way to build a short-lived or lasting relationship. It has been added to the traditional opportunities to find a partner in one’s network, namely our professional environments, family circles, group of friends, bars, concerts, etc. In fact, these in-person meetings are even losing their importance. In the United States, one in three recent marriages began with an online encounter, and this proportion increases every year.
Should we think of this shift as a substitution without great consequences for society, something akin to buying books on the internet rather than in bookstores? No, but not for the reasons you may imagine. Compared to marriages that originated with a traditional first-encounter, those that began with an online connection last longer, end in fewer divorces and more often bring together couples of different religions or ethnicities.
Online platforms make it possible to break out of an often homogenous environment and considerably expand the number of potential partners. As a result, the chances of meeting a partner closer to your preferences are multiplied. This is obvious for people whose inclinations are less shared — and therefore less common in their close circle. In the United States, 70% of homosexuals meet their partners online. There are also specialized sites…