Teens, Technology and Romantic Relationships

From heart emojis on Instagram to saying goodbye to a relationship with a text message, digital technology plays an important role in teen relationships.

Adolescence is a time of incredibly physical, social and emotional growth, and peer relationships – especially romantic ones – are a major social focus for many youth. Understanding the role social and digital media play in these romantic relationships is critical, given how deeply enmeshed these technology tools are in lives of American youth and how rapidly these platforms and devices change.
This study reveals that the digital realm is one part of a broader universe in which teens meet, date and break up with romantic partners. Online spaces are used infrequently for meeting romantic partners, but play a major role in how teens flirt, woo and communicate with potential and current flames.
This report examines American teens’ digital romantic practices. It covers the results of a national Pew Research Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17; throughout the report, the word “teens†refers to those in that age bracket, unless otherwise specified. The survey was conducted online from Sept. 25 through Oct. 9, 2014, and Feb. 10 through March 16, 2015; 16 online and in-person focus groups with teens were conducted in April 2014 and November 2014. The main findings from this research include:
Relatively few American teens have met a romantic partner online
Overall, 35% of American teens ages 13 to 17 have ever dated, hooked up with or been otherwise romantically involved with another person,1 and 18% are currently in a romantic relationship. Though 57% of teens have begun friendships in a digital space, teens are far less likely to have embarked on a romantic relationship that started online. A majority of teens with dating experience (76%) say they have only dated people they met via offline methods. One-quarter (24%) of teen “daters†or roughly 8% of all teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met online. Of those who have met a partner online, the majority met on social media sites, and the bulk of them met on Facebook.
Social media is a top venue for flirting
While most teen romantic relationships do not start online, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Along with in-person flirting, teens often use social media to like, comment, “friend†or joke around with someone on whom they have a crush. Among all teens:
55% of all teens ages 13 to 17 have flirted or talked to someone in person to let them know they are interested.
50% of teens have let someone know they were interested in them romantically by friending them on Facebook or another social media site.
47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
46% have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online
31% sent them flirtatious messages.
11% have made them a music playlist.
10% have sent flirty or sexy pictures or videos of themselves.2
7% have made a video for them.
Digital flirting has “entry-level†and more sophisticated elements for teens, depending on the nature of the relationship and their experience with virtual flirting strategies
Each of the flirting behaviors measured in the survey is more common among teens with previous dating experience than among those who have never dated before. But while some of these behaviors are at least relatively common among dating neophytes, others are almost entirely engaged in by teens with prior relationship experience.
When it comes to “entry-level†flirting, teens who have never been in a romantic relationship are most comfortable letting someone know that they are interested in them romantically using the following approaches:
Flirting or talking to them in person: 39% of teens without dating experience have done this.
Friending them or taking part in general interactions on social media: Roughly one-third (37%) of teens without dating experience have friended someone they are interested in romantically and a similar 34% have liked, commented on a post or otherwise interacted with a crush on social media.
Sharing funny or interesting things with them online. Some 31% of teens without dating experience have done this.
On the other hand, more advanced and sometimes overtly sexually suggestive online behaviors are most often exhibited by teens who have prior experience in romantic relationships:
Fully 63% of teens with dating experience have sent flirtatious messages to someone they were interested in; just 14% of teens without dating experience have done so.
23% of teens with dating experience have sent sexy or flirty pictures or videos to someone they were interested in, compared with just 2% of teens without dating experience.
Girls are more likely to be targets of uncomfortable flirting tactics
Not all flirting behavior is appreciated or appropriate. One-quarter (25%) of all teens have unfriended or blocked someone on social media because that person was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable.
Just as adult women are often subject to more frequent and intense harassment online, teen girls are substantially more likely than boys to experience uncomfortable flirting within social media environments. Fully 35% of all teen girls have had to block or unfriend someone who was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable, double the 16% of boys who have taken this step.
Social media helps teen daters to feel closer to their romantic partner, but also feeds jealousy and uncertainty
Many teens in relationships view social media as a place where they can feel more connected with the daily events in their significant other’s life, share emotional connections, and let their significant other know they care. At the same time, teens’ use of social media sites can also lead to feelings of jealousy or uncertainty about the stability of their relationships. However, even teens who indicate that social media has played a role in their relationship (whether for good or for bad) tend to feel that its role is relatively modest in the grand scheme of things.
Among teen social media users with relationship experience (30% of the overall population of those ages 13 to 17):
59% say social media makes them feel more connected to what’s happening in their significant other’s life; 15% indicate that it makes them feel “a lot†more connected.
47% say social media offers a place for them to show how much they care about their significant other; 12% feel this way “a lot.â€
44% say social media helps them feel emotionally closer to their significant other, with 10% feeling that way “a lot.â€
27% say social media makes them feel jealous or unsure about their relationship, with 7% feeling this way “a lot.â€
Boys are a bit more likely than girls to view social media as a space for emotional and logistical connection with their significant other
Among teens ages 13 to 17 who use social media and have some relationship experience:
65% of boys say social media makes them feel more connected with what’s happening in their significant other’s life (compared with 52% of girls). Some 16% of these boys report that these platforms make them feel “a lot†more connected.
50% of boys say social media makes them feel more emotionally connected with their significant other (compared with 37% of girls). Some 13% of boys feel “a lot†more emotionally close.
Teen daters like being able to publicly demonstrate their affection and show support for others’ romantic relationships. Yet they also find it allows too many people to be involved in their personal business
For some teens, social media is a space where they can display their relationship to others by publicly expressing their affection on the platform. More than a third (37%) of teens with relationship experience (also called “teen daters†throughout this report) have used social media to let their partner know how much they like them in a way that was visible to other people in their network. As noted above, teen daters say social media makes them feel like they have a place to show how much they care about their boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other. A bit less than half of teens (47%) say they feel this way about social media.
Teens also use social media to express public support or approval of others’ romantic relationships. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of teens with dating experience have posted or liked something on social media as a way to indicate their support of one of their friends’ relationships. Girls are especially likely to support friends’ relationships on social media: 71% of girls with dating experience have done so, compared with 57% of boys.
But even as they use social media to show affection, display their relationships and support their friends’ relationships, many teen daters also express annoyance at the public nature of their own romantic partnerships on social media. Some 69% of teen social media users with dating experience agree that too many people can see what’s happening in their relationship on social media; 16% of this group “strongly†agrees.
Many teens in romantic relationships expect daily communication with their significant other
Most teens in romantic relationships assume that they and their partner will check in with each other with great regularity throughout the day.
Overall, 85% of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their partner or significant other at least once a day, if not more often.
11% expect to hear from their partner hourly.
35% expect to hear something every few hours.
38% expect to hear from their significant other once a day.
When asked about their partner’s expectations for their own communication, a similar pattern emerges.
88% of teens in romantic relationships say their partner expects to hear from them at least once a day.
15% say they are expected to check in hourly.
38% are expected to do so every few hours.
35% are expected to do so once a day.
Texting, voice calls and in-person hanging out are the main ways teens spend time with their significant others
When it comes to spending time with a significant other, teens say texting is the top method, but phone calling and in-person time mix with other digital means for staying in touch. Asked how often they spent time with their current or former boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other on particular platforms, teen daters told us they use:
Text messaging – 92% of teens with romantic relationship experience have spent time text messaging with their partner at least occasionally.
Talking on the phone – 87% have spent time talking on the phone with their significant other.
Being together in person – 86% have spent time together in person, outside of school hours.
Social media – 70% have spent time together posting on social media sites.
Instant or online messaging – 69% have spent time with their significant other using instant or online messaging.
Video chat – 55% say they have spent time with their partner video chatting.
Messaging apps – 49% have used messaging apps to stay connected to their partner.
Email – 37% have used email to spend time with a significant other.
Talk while playing video games – 31% talk with their partner while playing video games together.
Teens consider the text message breakup to be socially undesirable, but a sizeable number of teens with relationship experience have been broken up with — or have broken up with others — using text messaging

The most socially acceptable way to break up with someone is by having an in-person conversation, and these conversations are the most common way that breakups occur in a “real-world†setting. While most teens rate an in-person talk as the most acceptable way to break up with someone, some 62% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone in person, and 47% have been broken up with through an in-person discussion.
Text messaging – which is widely viewed as one of the least acceptable ways of breaking up with someone – is more common in the context of actual relationships than its perceived acceptability might indicate. Some 27% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone via text message, 31% have been broken up with in this way.
Phone calls, which are seen as the second-most acceptable way of breaking up with someone, are just as common as a breakup text; 29% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone over the phone, and 27% have been broken up with in this way.
And breakups through social media (which, like texts, are also viewed as having low levels of acceptability) are also relatively common – 18% of teens with dating experience have experienced or initiated a breakup by sending a private social media message, changing their relationship status on Facebook or posting a status update.
Relatively small numbers of teen daters engage in potentially controlling or harmful digital behavior to a partner or ex-partner
Dating isn’t always a positive experience for youth, in person or digitally. In this study, we asked teen daters about a number of things they might have done online or with a phone to someone they were dating or used to date. These behaviors fall on a spectrum of seriousness, from potentially innocuous to troubling. And most of these activities are highly dependent on context – as one person’s cute is another person’s creepy.
11% of teen daters have accessed a mobile or online account of current or former partner.
10% have modified or deleted their partner’s or ex-partner’s social media profile.
10% have impersonated a boyfriend, girlfriend or ex in a message.
8% of teens have sent embarrassing pictures of a current or former partner to someone else.
4% have downloaded a GPS or tracking program to a partners’ device without their knowledge.
A small share of teen daters have experienced potentially abusive or controlling behavior by a current or former partner
Beyond perpetrating potentially inappropriate or harmful behavior, teen daters also can be the recipients of –possibly more serious – controlling or potentially abusive experiences at the hands of significant others. These questions ask about nine experiences and whether they occur during a relationship and/or after a relationship ends. And like the practices our survey respondents told us they engaged in above, these behaviors and experiences are in some cases dependent on context of the interaction.
During a relationship teens are most likely to experience:
31% of teens with dating experience report that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day on the internet or cellphone, asking where they were, who they were with or what they were doing.
26% of teen daters report that their partner checked up on them during their relationship.
5% of teen daters report that a former partner checked up on them multiple times per day after their relationship ended.

21% of teen daters report that a current or former boyfriend, girlfriend or partner has read their text messages without permission.
18% of teen daters report such an experience during the course of their relationship.
3% report that a partner read their texts without permission after their relationship had ended.

15% of teen daters (or 5% of all teens) say a current or former partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them to engage in sexual activity they did not want to have.
10% of teen daters report that this happened during a relationship.
5% report that a former partner did this to them after a relationship ended.

Potentially controlling and harmful behaviors teens experience both during and after a relationship with similar frequency3:
16% of teen daters have been required by a current or former partner to remove former girlfriends or boyfriends from their friends list on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.
10% of teens experience this during their relationship; 7% experience it after a breakup.

13% of teens with dating experience report that their current or former partner demanded that they share their passwords to email and internet accounts with them.
And teens are about equally as likely to experience this during a relationship (7%) as after a relationship ends (5%).

11% of teens with relationship experience report that a current or former partner has contacted them on the internet or on their cellphone to threaten to hurt them.
8% of teens with dating experience have been threatened digitally by an ex.
4% experienced this during a relationship.

8% of teen daters report that a current or ex-partner used information posted on the internet against them, to harass or embarrass them.
4% had this happen during a relationship, and another 4% have experienced this after the relationship ended.

After a relationship ends, teens are more likely to experience:
22% of teens with relationship experience have had a partner use the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them.
14% of teen daters report that this happened after a relationship ended.
8% of teens report that a boyfriend or girlfriend had done this to them during a relationship.

15% of teen daters report that a current or former partner spread rumors about them using digital platforms like mobile phones or the internet.
13% of youth with dating experience report that this happened after a breakup;
2% of teen daters experienced this during a relationship.

In this report, the question that established whether a respondent was a “dater†was asked as follows: “Have you ever dated, hooked up with or otherwise had a romantic relationship with another person?†No other definition was provided for any of the terms in the question, though “hooking up†is intended to elicit a positive response from teens involved in more casual, physical relationships with peers ↩This study did not ask about sexting, or the sending, sharing or receiving of nude or nearly nude photos and videos. For our previous research on teen sexting, please see “Teens and Sexting†and “Sexting†in “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites.†↩The differences between the percent of teens who experienced these things during vs. after a relationship are not statistically significant for any of the items in this section. ↩

Dating & Mating in the Digital Age

Relationships and technology in the modern era.

Amanda Lenhart gave the keynote presentation to the Council on Contemporary Families Annual Conference at the University of Miami. Amanda’s talk is in two parts—the first examines how American adults, particularly singles, date online. The second part talks about how adults in marriages or long-term relationships use the internet, mobile phones, and social media within their relationships.

Couples, the Internet, and Social Media

The internet, cell phones and social media have become key actors in the lives of many American couples. Technology is a source of support and communication as well as tension, and couples say it has both good and bad impacts on their relationships.

Summary of Findings
The internet, cell phones, and social media have become key actors in the life of many American couples— the 66% of adults who are married or in committed relationships. Couples use technology in the little and large moments. They negotiate over when to use it and when to abstain. A portion of them quarrel over its use and have had hurtful experiences caused by tech use. At the same time, some couples find that digital tools facilitate communication and support. A majority of those in couples maintain their own separate email and social media accounts, though a smaller number report sharing accounts and calendars. And fully two-thirds of couples share passwords.  The broad statistical picture looks like this:
The overall impact of technology on long term relationships
10% of internet users who are married or partnered say that the internet has had a “major impact†on their relationship, and 17% say that it has had a “minor impact.†Fully 72% of married or committed online adults said the internet has “no real impact at all†on their partnership.
74% of the adult internet users who report that the internet had an impact on their marriage or partnership say the impact was positive. Still, 20% said the impact was mostly negative, and 4% said it was both good and bad.
Tech as a source of support and communication
25% of married or partnered adults who text have texted their partner when they were both home together.
21% of cell owners or internet users in a committed relationship have felt closer to their spouse or partner because of exchanges they had online or via text message.
9% have resolved an argument with their partner online or by text message that they were having difficulty resolving in person.
Tech as a source of tension
25% of cell phone owners in a marriage or partnership have felt their spouse or partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together.
8% of internet users in a committed relationship have had an argument with their spouse or partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online.
4% of internet users in a committed relationship have gotten upset at something that they found out their spouse or partner was doing online.
Young adults more likely to report that technology has an impact—good and bad.
Young adults are more likely to report feeling closer to their spouse or partner thanks to technology
41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations.
23% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships report resolving an argument using digital tools that they were having trouble resolving in person.
At the same time, young adults are more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use
42% of cell-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together (25% of all couples say this).
18% of online 18-29 year olds have argued with a partner about the amount of time one of them spent online (compared with 8% of all online couples).
8% say they have been upset by something their partner was doing online (compared with 4% of all online couples).
Overall, young adults are more likely to report that the internet has had an impact on their relationship
45% of internet users ages 18-29 in serious relationships say the internet has had an impact on their relationship, while just one in ten online adults 65 and older say the same.
Shared passwords:
67% of internet users in a marriage or committed relationship have shared the password to one or more of their online accounts with their spouse or partner.
Shared accounts:
27% of internet users in a marriage or committed relationship have an email account that they share with their partner. Older adults and those who have been in their relationship for longer than ten years are especially likely to share an email account.
11% of these couples have an online calendar that they share. Sharing of online calendars tends to be most prevalent among couples in their logistics-intensive middle-age period (i.e. mid-20s through mid-40s).
11% of partnered or married adults who use social networking sites share a social media profile.
As a broad pattern, those who have been married or partnered ten years or less have digital communication and sharing habits that differ substantially from those who have been partnered longer. Some of this is about timing— technology a decade ago was squarely in the pre-Facebook, pre-smartphone era, and just ten years into the development of the commercially popular Web. Those who were already together as a couple at the advent of a new platform or technology were a bit more likely to jump on together, as a unit, while those who begin relationships with their own existing accounts and profiles tend to continue to use them separately as individuals.
Long-term couples tend to view and utilize technology quite differently compared with those who have been together for a shorter period of time
Couples who have been together for 10 years or less show different patterns of technology usage in the context of their relationship compared with those who have been together for a longer period of time. Couples who have been together for a decade or less—also typically younger than those who have been together for longer—are much more likely to have used dating services or the internet to meet their partner, to use technology to help with the logistics and communication in their relationship, and to report that the internet had an impact on their relationship. Adults who are long-partnered use technology in their relationship, but are more likely to use some of it together—by sharing email addresses and social media profiles as a couple.
Sexting among adults is up since 2012
Technology in relationships is not just limited to coordination and logistics, it now encompasses even the more intimate moments. Sexting, or sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos and videos via cell phone, is practiced by couples and singles alike.
9% of adult cell owners have sent a sext of themselves to someone else, up from 6% of cell owners who said this in 2012.
20% of cell owners have received a sext of someone else they know on their phone, up from 15% who said this in 2012.
3% of cell owners have forwarded a sext to someone else – unchanged since 2012.
Married and partnered adults are just as likely as those not in a relationship to say they have sent sexts; single adults are more likely to report receiving and forwarding such images or videos.
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 married or partnered adults (n=1,428), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points and for cell phone owners (n=2,076) the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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?