- A new paper suggests partners who meet online are more likely to be compatible than those who meet in person.
- The paper adds to a growing body of research suggesting marriages that start online are stronger and last longer than relationships that start offline.
- The research doesn’t prove that online dating causes relationships to be stronger. It could be that people who register for dating services are more interested in a relationship.
Telling people you and your partner met online can seem kind of boring.
Wouldn’t you rather be able to share a story about how you were both reading the same obscure French novel on the New York City subway? Or how you’d been best friends since kindergarten and then one day something just clicked?
But couples who connected through swiping or clicking can take, ahem, heart: If they choose to tie the knot, they will likely have a healthier marriage than couples who met offline.
There’s a growing body of research to support this idea, and the latest piece of evidence is a paper by Josué Ortega at the University of Essex in the UK and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria, cited in the MIT Technology Review.
The researchers reached their conclusion by creating upwards of 10,000 randomly generated societies. Then they simulated the connections made through online dating in each society.
The researchers calculated the strength of marriages by measuring the compatibility between two partners in a society. And they found that compatibility was greater in partners after they had added those online-dating connections to that society.
Earlier studies — in which real people were surveyed — have found relationships that begin online tend to have an advantage over those that began offline.
For example, a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 looked at about 19,000 people who married between 2005 and 2012. People who met their spouse online said their marriage was more satisfying than those who met their spouse offline. Plus, marriages that began online were less likely to end in separation or divorce.
(That study was funded by eHarmony.com, but one of the study authors told MarketWatch that it was overseen by independent statisticians.)
Another study, published in the journal Sociological Science in 2017, found that heterosexual couples who met online made a quicker transition to marriage than couples who met offline.
None of this research proves that online dating causes couples to have a stronger relationship. It’s possible — and more likely — that there’s some self-selection going on, as University of Kansas professor Jeffrey A. Hall told MarketWatch in 2013.
That is, people who sign up for dating services may be more interested in a relationship, and even marriage, than say, people at a bar who aren’t specifically there to meet a serious partner. As Business Insider previously reported, 80% of Tinder users say they’re looking for a meaningful relationship — despite the app’s reputation as a place to find hookups. Plus, the more people you’re exposed to, the more likely you are to find someone you’re compatible with.
The takeaway here isn’t that online dating is a panacea for your romantic troubles. It’s not necessarily.
But as online dating becomes more prevalent — right now it’s the second most common way for heterosexual American couples to meet and the most common way for homosexual American couples to meet — it could have a meaningful impact on the divorce rate, and on overall relationship happiness.
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