(Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Online dating and its newer relative - mobile dating apps - are increasingly a go-to option to meet a romantic partner, according to a Pew Research Center report that finds 11% of American adults have used either. Among those who have, 66% have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app, and 23% met their spouse or significant other that way.
The report, out today, is based on a telephone survey of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older, completed in May. It offers a first glimpse at mobile dating apps, finding that 3% of all adults say they've used such an app on their cellphone.
Pew's analysis is the latest in a series of efforts designed to get a better handle on how much technology has changed the way prospective partners pair up. Unlike data released this summer based on a survey commissioned by a dating website, Pew, a non-partisan organization, is an independent body.
"We're not just looking at users of a particular site or a convenience sample," says the report's lead author, Aaron Smith. "We have the ability to look at a nationally representative portion of the population to show not only what's happening now but how those behaviors have changed over a period of time."
This snapshot details an evolution in trends. Forty-two percent of Americans know someone who has used online dating, up from 31% in a 2005 report from Pew. Additionally, 29% of Americans know someone who met a spouse or other long-term partner through online dating, up from 15%.
Sociologist Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., whose online dating research is based on a nationally representative, longitudinal survey, says Pew's study shows how "the Internet continues to expand in use and in acceptance as a way to meet potential partners."
Pew's survey includes a subset of 1,895 Internet users. Among those, 32% agree that "online dating keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date." It's a first-time question for Pew and a subject that others who study online dating say is up for debate.
Sociologist Kevin Lewis of the University of California-San Diego studies online dating and says Internet options don't offer "some promised land of eligible partners."
"For women, there are lots of guys who are just creepy or unattractive or undesirable. For guys, there's often the opposite problem - they can't get a woman to respond because they're inundated with so many messages," he says. "It's not a panacea for those who say, 'I'm single, and I could break up with my girlfriend and find something better online.' "
Of the online daters surveyed, 40% have used a site or app for people with shared interests or backgrounds, and one-third (33%) have paid a dating site or app. Although gatherings organized by an online dating site are increasing, just 4% of online daters have attended such an event, Pew says.
The downsides are evident: 54% "felt someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile," and 28% "have been contacted by someone through an online dating site or app in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable."
A tidbit Smith found interesting is that 38% of online daters have come across a profile or been matched with someone they already knew.