Online Dating & Relationships

One in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app; 66% of them have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app, and 23% have met a spouse or long term partner through these sites.

One in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app themselves, and many people now know someone else who uses online dating or who has found a spouse or long-term partner via online dating. General public attitudes towards online dating have become much more positive in recent years, and social networking sites are now playing a prominent role when it comes to navigating and documenting romantic relationships. These are among the key findings of a national survey of dating and relationships in the digital era, the first dedicated study of this subject by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project since 2005.
11% of American adults—and 38% of those who are currently “single and looking†for a partner—have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps
One in every ten American adults has used an online dating site or a mobile dating app. We refer to these individuals throughout this report as “online daters,†and we define them in the following way:
11% of internet users (representing 9% of all adults) say that they have personally used an online dating site such as Match.com, eHarmony, or OK Cupid.
7% of cell phone apps users (representing 3% of all adults) say that they have used a dating app on their cell phone.
Taken together, 11% of all American adults have done one or both of these activities and are classified as “online daters.†In terms of demographics, online dating is most common among Americans in their mid-20’s through mid-40’s. Some 22% of 25-34 year olds and 17% of 35-44 year olds are online daters. Online dating is also relatively popular among the college-educated, as well as among urban and suburban residents. And 38% of Americans who are single and actively looking for a partner have used online dating at one point or another.
66% of online daters have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app, and 23% of online daters say they have met a spouse or long term relationship through these sites
Compared with eight years ago, online daters in 2013 are more likely to actually go out on dates with the people they meet on these sites. Some 66% of online daters have gone on a date with someone they met through an online dating site or app, up from 43% of online daters who had done so when we first asked this question in 2005. Moving beyond dates, one quarter of online daters (23%) say that they themselves have entered into a marriage or long-term relationship with someone they met through a dating site or app. That is statistically similar to the 17% of online daters who said that this had happened to them when we first asked this question in 2005.
Attitudes towards online dating are becoming more positive over time
Even today, online dating is not universally seen as a positive activity—a significant minority of the public views online dating skeptically. At the same time, public attitudes towards online dating have grown more positive in the last eight years:
59% of all internet users agree with the statement that “online dating is a good way to meet people,†a 15-point increase from the 44% who said so in 2005.
53% of internet users agree with the statement that “online dating allows people to find a better match for themselves because they can get to know a lot more people,†a 6-point increase from the 47% who said so in 2005.
21% of internet users agree with the statement that “people who use online dating sites are desperate,†an 8-point decline from the 29% who said so in 2005.
Additionally, 32% of internet users agree with the statement that “online dating keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.†This is the first time we have asked this question.

In general, online daters themselves give the experience high marks. Some 79% of online daters agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, and 70% of them agree that it helps people find a better romantic match because they have access to a wide range of potential partners. Yet even some online daters view the process itself and the individuals they encounter on these sites somewhat negatively. Around one in ten online daters (13%) agree with the statement that “people who use online dating sites are desperate,†and 29% agree that online dating “keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.â€
42% of all Americans know an online dater, and 29% know someone who has used online dating to find a spouse or other long-term relationship
Familiarity with online dating through usage by friends or family members has increased dramatically since our last survey of online dating in 2005. Some 42% of Americans know someone who has used online dating, up from 31% in 2005. And 29% of Americans now know someone who met a spouse or other long-term partner through online dating, up from just 15% in 2005.

People in nearly every major demographic group—old and young, men and women, urbanites and rural dwellers—are more likely to know someone who uses online dating (or met a long term partner through online dating) than was the case eight years ago. And this is especially true for those at the upper end of the socio-economic spectrum:
57% of all college graduates know someone who uses online dating, and 41% know someone who has met a spouse or other long-term partner through online dating.
57% of Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more know someone who uses online dating, and 40% know someone who met a spouse or partner this way.
Negative experiences on online dating sites are relatively common
Even as online daters have largely positive opinions of the process, many have had negative experiences using online dating. Half (54%) of online daters have felt that someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile. And more seriously, 28% of online daters have been contacted by someone through an online dating site or app in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable. Women are much more likely than men to have experienced uncomfortable contact via online dating sites or apps: some 42% of female online daters have experienced this type of contact at one point or another, compared with 17% of men.
40% of online daters have used dating sites designed for people with shared interests or backgrounds, and one in three have paid to use a dating site or app. One in five online daters have asked someone to help them review their profile.
Paid dating sites, and sites for people who are seeking partners with specific characteristics are popular with relatively large numbers of online daters:
40% of online daters have used a site or app for people with shared interests or backgrounds.
33% of online daters have paid to use an online dating site or app.
Organized outings are much less common, as just 4% of online daters have attended a group outing or other physical event organized by an online dating site.
Additionally, 22% of online daters have asked someone to help them create or review their profile. Women are around twice as likely as men to ask for assistance creating or perfecting their profile—30% of female online daters have done this, compared with 16% of men.
5% of Americans who are currently married or in a long-term partnership met their partner somewhere online. Among those who have been together for ten years or less, 11% met online.
Even today, the vast majority of Americans who are in a marriage, partnership, or other serious relationship say that they met their partner through offline—rather than online—means. At the same time, the proportion of Americans who say that they met their current partner online has doubled in the last eight years. Some 6% of internet users who are in a marriage, partnership, or other committed relationship met their partner online—that is up from 3% of internet users who said this in 2005. On an “all-adults†basis, that means that 5% of all committed relationships in America today began online.
This question was asked of everyone in a marriage or other long-term partnership, including many whose relationships were initiated well before meeting online was an option. Looking only at those committed relationships that started within the last ten years, 11% say that their spouse or partner is someone they met online. Younger adults are also more likely than older ones to say that their relationship began online. Some 8% of 18-29 year olds in a marriage or committed relationship met their partner online, compared with 7% of 30-49 year olds, 3% of 50-64 year olds, and just 1% of those 65 and older.
In addition, people who have used online dating are significantly more likely to say that their relationship began online than are those who have never used online dating. Fully 34% of Americans who are in a committed relationship and have used online dating sites or dating apps in the past say that they met their spouse or partner online, compared with 3% for those who have not used online dating sites.
Using the internet to flirt, research potential partners, and check up on old flames have all become much more common in recent years
Compared with when we conducted our first study of dating and relationships in 2005, many more Americans are using online tools to check up on people they used to date, and to flirt with potential (or current) love interests:
24% of internet users have searched for information online about someone they dated in the past, up from 11% in 2005.
24% of internet users have flirted with someone online, up from 15% in 2005.
Young adults are especially likely to flirt online—47% of internet users ages 18-24 have done this before, as have 40% of those ages 25-34. And while younger adults are also more likely than their elders to look up past flames online, this behavior is still relatively common among older cohorts. Some 21% of internet users ages 45-54, and 15% of those ages 55-64, have gone online to look up someone they used to date.
Additionally, 29% of internet users with recent dating experience have gone online to search for information about someone they were currently dating or about to meet for a first date. That is more than double the 13% of such internet users who did so when we last asked about this behavior in 2005.
Social networking sites offer a new online venue for navigating the world of dating and relationships
Today six out of every ten Americans use social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook or Twitter, and these sites are often intertwined with the way they experience their past and present romantic relationships:
One third (31%) of all SNS users have gone on these sites to check up on someone they used to date or be in a relationship with.
17% have posted pictures or other details from a date on a social networking site.
Younger adults are especially likely to live out their relationships through social networking sites. Some 48% of SNS users ages 18-29 have used these sites to check up on someone they dated in the past, and 31% have posted details or pictures from a date on a social networking site.

These sites are also being used as a source of background research on potential romantic partners. Nearly one third (30%) of SNS users with recent dating experience1 have used a social networking site to get more information about someone they were interested in dating. And 12% of SNS users with recent dating experience have friended or followed someone on a social networking site specifically because one of their friends suggested they might want to date that person.
Beyond using these sites as a tool for researching potential partners, some 15% of SNS users with recent dating experience have asked someone out on a date using a social networking site.
For young adults especially, social networking sites can be the site of “relationship dramaâ€
As more and more Americans use social networking sites, these spaces can become the site of potential tension or awkwardness around relationships and dating. Some 27% of all social networking site users have unfriended or blocked someone who was flirting in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, and 22% have unfriended or blocked someone that they were once in a relationship with. These sites can also serve as a lingering reminder of relationships that have ended—17% of social networking site users have untagged or deleted photos on these sites of themselves and someone they used to be in a relationship with.
Not surprisingly, young adults—who have near-universal rates of social networking site use and have spent the bulk of their dating lives in the social media era—are significantly more likely than older social media users to have experienced all three of these situations in the past. And women are more likely than men to have blocked or unfriended someone who was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable.

About this survey
This report is based on the findings of a survey on Americans’ use of the Internet. The results in this report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from April 17 to May 19, 2013, among a sample of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,125) and cell phone (1,127, including 571 without a landline phone). For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For results based on Internet users (n=1,895), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

People with “recent dating experience†include those who are single and actively looking for a partner, as well as those who have been in a committed relationship for ten years or less. ↩

Are our relationships defined by our online habits?

Everyone has a friend or two who takes that much longer to respond to emails because they just don’t ever check their accounts, who don’t want to join social networks and who never pop up on IM and gmail-chat. What happens when you fall in love w…

Everyone has a friend or two who takes that much longer to respond to emails because they just don’t ever check their accounts, who don’t want to join social networks and who never pop up on IM and gTalk. What happens when you fall in love with someone like that?
A friend in a serious relationship has declared herself as “single” on Facebook, the social networking site, not because she isn’t madly in love with her boyfriend, but because her boyfriend won’t create a Facebook profile. As a compulsive Facebook user (she updates her picture weekly and has at least 5 new posts on her wall every day), many of her social and family ties are maintained through communications via Facebook. In not joining Facebook, her boyfriend misses a part of life that is important to her.
In a more extreme example, a recent Wall Street Journal story profiled a man who is married to two women; one in Second Life and an entirely separate woman in the real world. The article describes how the man logs onto Second Life so he can spend hours on walks and motorcycle rides with his Second Life wife while the food left for him by his real-life wife remains untouched and unnoticed.
It seems to be an intolerable situation for the non-cyber wife. There is no question that her husband is neglecting their relationship in favor of his online life. The article does not offer substantial reasons for why she does not attempt to join him in his online domain—perhaps she is just not interested in cyber worlds. In hindsight, it would have been good to know that her future husband had a consuming interest/passion (way of life) that she does not share.
Will we soon be living in a world bifurcated by those who live a life fully immersed in the communicative and expressive tools the online world has to offer and those who deliberately choose not to communicate in those spaces?

Online Dating

There is now relatively broad public contact with the online dating world. Yet, dating sites are just one of many online avenues that facilitate romantic connections.

Most online Americans who are single and looking for dates have used the internet to pursue their romantic interests and millions more Americans know people who have tried and succeeded at online dating.
In a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, there are two central findings that illustrate how important the internet has become for those seeking romance in 21st Century America: First, among the relatively small and active cohort of 10 million internet users who say they are currently single and looking for romantic partners, 74% say they have used the internet in one way or another to further their romantic interests. Second, there is relatively broad public contact with the online dating world because significant numbers of Americans personally know others who have tried and succeeded at online dating. Some 15% of those in this survey of the general public – representing about 30 million Americans – say they know someone who has been in a long-term relationship or married someone they met online. Twice as many know someone who has at least dabbled in the online dating scene.
31% of American adults—63 million people—say they know someone who has used a dating website.
26% of American adults—53 million people—say they know someone who has gone on a date with a person they met through a dating site.
15% of American adults—30 million people—say they know someone who has been in a long-term relationship or married someone he or she met online.
At the same time, most internet users believe online dating is dangerous because it puts personal information online and they also think that many online daters lie about their marital status.
Most internet users (66%) agree with the statement that online dating is a dangerous activity because it puts personal information on the internet. Some 25% do not consider online dating dangerous. Female internet users, older users, and those who have lower levels of income or education are among the most wary of these risks.
Those who have actually used the services are more confident; 43% think that the activity involves risk, while 52% do not see the activity as dangerous. In a separate question, 6% of online daters say that dating websites do an “excellent” job of protecting people’s personal information, while 32% say they do a “good” job. Another 33% rate the services as “fair” and 12% say the websites do a “poor” job of protecting their information.
In addition, 57% of internet users agree that a lot of people who use online dating lie about their marital status; while 18% disagree, and 25% say they do not know. Those with lower levels of income or education are more likely than the average internet user to suspect that people lie.
Just over half (52%) of online daters agree that a lot people are dishonest about being married, while 32% disagree, and 15% say they do not  know. The internet users who are single and looking for dates report similar views.
While some stigma about online dating persists, most internet users do not view it simply as a last resort.
The majority (61%) of online adults do not think that people who use online dating are “desperate.” However, 29% hold the view that online daters are in dire dating straits. Internet users who are single and looking for dates are less likely to hold this negative view; only 20% agree that online daters are desperate.
Those who do regard online daters as desperate tend to have less experience online and say they are less trusting of people generally. And although online men are more likely than online women to view dating services as a good way to meet people, they are also more likely to categorize online daters as a desperate group.
One in ten internet users say they have personally gone to dating websites.
Those who are in the market for online dating services are a relatively specific group. Looking at the total internet population, 11% of all American internet-using adults—about 16 million people—say they have gone to an online dating website or other site where they can meet people online. We call them online daters in this report.
Our survey also finds that, at the moment, 7% of online adults, or about 10 million people, say they are currently seeking romantic partners. Within this group, 37% have gone to a dating website.
Online Daters are defined here as internet users who have gone to an online dating website or other site where they can meet people online.

43% of all online daters, or nearly 7 million adults, have gone on dates with people they met through the sites and 17% of them, nearly 3 million adults, have entered long-term relationships or married their online dating partners.
3% of the internet users who are married or in long-term committed relationships say they met their partners online. That also represents about 3 million people.
A majority of online daters report good experiences with the sites.
Of the 16 million people who have been to online dating sites, 52% say they had mostly positive experiences. At the same time, a sizable segment, 29%, report mostly negative experiences. Few offer a mixed response: just 7% say they had both positive and negative experiences. The remaining 12% say they do not know or decline a response.
Still, the general online public is evenly divided over the merits of online dating. While 44% agree that internet dating is a “good way to meet people,” the same percentage disagrees with that statement. A sizable segment, 11%, says they do not know. Online men (48%) have a greater tendency to see the benefits of online dating when compared with online women (41%). And, in general, the younger the internet user, the more likely he or she is to rate the services favorably.
Online daters believe dating websites help people to find a better match because they can get to know a lot more people.
Most online daters think that using internet dating services helps to open up the playing field. Fully 64% agree that online dating helps people find a better match because they have access to a larger pool of potential dates, while just 31% disagree with this assessment. Another 6% say they do not know whether or not online dating facilitates better connections.
The general online public is less certain, but generally supportive of the notion that online dating facilitates better pairing. Looking at the total population of internet users, 47% agree that online dating allows people to find a better match because the pool of potential mates is larger online. Another 38% disagree, and 15% say they do not know.
There are uses of the internet beyond dating websites that have woven themselves into the world of romance.
Dating websites are just one of many online avenues that can lead to a romantic connection. Those who describe themselves as single and looking for a partner comprise a relatively small segment of the online population that totals about 10 million people. They use the internet both as a roadmap for the offline world and as a destination to meet people by marshaling things like search engines, email, and instant messaging to connect with a romantic partner.
Some 74% of those in this cohort report that they have used the internet in at least one way to facilitate dating and romance.
The table below lists the various dating-related activities included in our survey:

Romance in America

Only 16% of single American adults are actively looking for dating partners.

The State of Romance in America
Most young singles in America do not describe themselves as actively looking for romantic partners. Even those who are seeking relationships are not dating frequently. About half (49%) had been on no more than one date in the previous three months.
These findings emerge from a national survey conducted last fall by the Pew Internet & American Life Project looking at the place of online dating in the larger picture of relationships in America. The survey found that dating in America is, indeed, affected by online matchmaking activity. But in analyzing our findings, we discovered another story: Large numbers of single Americans are not actively looking for relationships and even significant numbers of those looking for partners are not that active on the dating scene.
At first glance, the survey results suggest ample targets for Cupid among American adults. The table below shows that while the majority of American adults (56% or 113 million people) are not in the dating market (they are married or living as married), the number of potential romance-seekers is still huge. Fully 43% of adults (87 million people) say they are single. These data generally align with findings from a 50,000-household survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004.1
In general, marriage patterns have ebbed and flowed over time. Census data show fairly consistent patterns throughout the first half of the 20th century with a swing towards marriage in the 1950s and 1960s. Marriage rates then receded as the ranks of both the widowed and the never-married increased.

Only 16% of single Americans say they are hunting for a partner. That group represents 7% of the entire adult population.  
While a sizable segment of the population is single, about a quarter of unmarried Americans (26% or about 23 million adults) say they are in committed romantic relationships. Single men are more likely than single women to report being so situated. Yet among the uncommitted, relatively few say they are in the market for relationships.

Among all singles, just 16% say they are currently looking for a romantic partner. That amounts to 7% of the adult population. Some 55% of singles report no active interest in seeking a romantic partner. This is especially true for women, for those who have been widowed or divorced, and for older singles. Yet even among the youngest adults, the zest for romance is somewhat muted: 38% of singles ages 18-29 say they are not currently looking for a romantic partner, compared to 22% in that age cohort who are looking for partners. The rest say they are in committed relationships.
Most relationship-seeking singles say it is difficult to meet people in their towns.  
No doubt many reasons underlie the relatively small size of the active dating population. One suggested by this survey’s findings is the type of community in which singles live.
When singles who are actively looking for partners were asked about the dating scene where they live, a majority of those actively seeking dates (55%) said it was difficult to meet people. Only 43% said it was easy, while 2% said they didn’t know.
Moreover, when asked to describe the dating possibilities where they live, a plurality, 47%, said there were very few single people in their town they would be interested in dating. Another 41% said there were lots of single people in their town that seemed interesting but 10% said they didn’t know much about the local singles scene.
Perhaps not surprisingly, finding suitable partners is easier in urban areas than in suburban areas, and far easier than in rural areas. As shown in the table, 57% of city dwellers who are looking for dates say there is plenty of dating potential in their communities compared with 38% of date-seeking suburbanites and only 21% of date seekers residing in rural settings. By the same token, substantially more urbanites who are looking for dates (58%) find it easy to meet people in their communities than do suburbanites and rural residents.

Whatever the reasons, few of today’s seeking singles describe themselves as active on the dating scene.  Asked how many dates they had been on in the past three months, singles who said they were in the dating market reported the following:
36% said they had been on no dates in the previous three months.
13% had been one date.
22% had been on 2-4 dates
25% had been on 5 or more dates.
The subpopulation of dating singles in our survey sample is too small to produce highly reliable demographic breakdowns on this dating question. But in our modest sample, urban residents were more likely to be active daters than were suburbanites or rural residents. Perhaps more surprisingly, single men said they had been less active daters than single women.
A look at who’s committed.
Despite the challenges of finding a mate, a majority of American adults have found marriage partners or long-term relationships. And two-thirds (68%) of those in marriages or in households living as married said they had been in those relationships for longer than five years. Overall:
47% of all adult Americans–about 95 million people–have been married or in a committed relationship for more than five years.
26% of all American adults–about 53 million people–are not married and are not looking for a romantic partner.
21% of all adult Americans–about 42 million people–are married or in a committed relationship for less than five years.
7% of all adult Americans–about 14 million people–are not married or in a committed relationship and are actively looking for romantic partners.
Some key demographic dimensions of each group are shown in the table below:

In general, those with college degrees and higher levels of household income are significantly more likely to be married than those with high school diplomas and those living in households with more modest levels of income. African-Americans and English-speaking Hispanics are more likely than whites never to have married.
Among internet users, how the married and the committed met each other.
In our sample of internet users, we found that those who are in serious long-term relationships or marriage are equally as likely to have met through friends or in a work or school setting. Still, bars remain a relatively popular place for long-term relationships to begin. Here is a rundown from the survey of how the internet users in marriages or long-term relationships first encountered each other.
38% met at work or school.
34% met through family or friends.
13% met at a nightclub, bar, café, or other social gathering
3% met through the internet.
2% met at church.
1% met by chance, such as on the street.
1% met because they lived in the same neighborhood.
1% met at a recreational facility like a gym.
1% met on a blind date or through a dating service.
The remainder cited a variety of other ways they met, such as growing up together.
While the survey provides no direct evidence that the internet can take credit for the higher rates of wedlock among its users, it does show that internet date-seeking has become increasingly popular. UPDATE: A detailed look at online dating is now available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Dating.aspx’>http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Dating.aspx
 
Note: Further table developed by Mary Madden in response to queries about this data.
 

The most recent data on marriage and divorce published by the U.S. Census Bureau can be found at: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/marr-div.html’>http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/marr-div.html ↩