Societal Conditions

Dating trends have always been influenced by societal, cultural and economic conditions. The area where we live, our access to finance and our general mobility all have an impact on how we could potentially meet our partner. MIT Technology Review has now found that modern dating trends are having an effect on society. The cause: online dating trends.

For over 50 years, researchers have studied how people connect with one another. Whether that be through family and friends, in school or in the neighbourhood. How we connect with people is often determined by predisposing factors.

In general, immediate relationships, such as family and friends, play a strong role in connecting people. Individuals associate in clusters. These groups come together by familiar bonds, whether this is family, community or sporting and cultural connections. The second form of connection that people regularly make is a loose connection to another grouping. This is either by meeting someone randomly or through a work or social environment. These loose connections build a bridge between two groups. In effect, these bridges have introduced couples. People are unlikely to date someone in their immediate group, such as their best friend. However, they are far more likely to date a friend of a friend.

Online Dating Trends

Online dating trends have changed the nature of these relationships. It is now the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet. It is by far the most common way for same-sex couples to get together. For the most part, people who meet online tend to be total strangers. This has massive implications for connectivity, as trends in online dating remove many of barriers.

Online Dating Trends

Online Dating Trends. Source: MIT Technology Review

Interracial Relationships

Josue Ortega and Philipp Hergovich carried out research into the possible implications that these new network connections could have on society. They start by assessing what happens when these extra links are introduced into a social network. They believe that online dating could have massive implications on the future of interracial marriages. “Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” said Ortega and Hergovich. Interracial marriage has been increasing in the United States for some time, but there has been a marked increase since the arrival of online dating in the mid-1990s. In 2014, interracial marriages jumped once again, about the same time that Tinder became widespread.

The research also found that trends in online dating tended to produce stronger relationships. The model that they used measured the distance between partners before and after online dating became prevalent. Their study discovered that couples who met online tended to have a stronger marital bond than those who met through friends or in other circumstances. This could have a profound effect on divorce rates.

Technological Changes

Of course, technological surroundings have always impacted relationships. At one time in history, individuals were limited to finding potential partners within walking distance of where they lived. The arrival of the bicycle on a mass scale gave people the ability to meet people from further afield. As did other changes in transportation. Public transport such as trains, and eventually the wide ownership of cars allowed people a greater option in finding a partner. The internet has revolutionised how we interact with all aspect of life. From grocery shopping to conducting business, the internet has opened up avenues to a life that many never knew previously existed. We should only have expected that the internet would play a role in developing relationships.

Arranged Marriage

However, this study comes with a caveat. Online dating is a popular means of finding a partner in many countries, but there are also several societies who conform to more traditional means of partnering people. In a recent survey in India, it found that 84% of respondents had met their partner through an arranged marriage. This practice is also common in other countries.

Nonetheless, the impact of meeting new people outside of traditional group setting could have major implications for future society. The potential to meet people of different races and cultures, especially in multicultural societies, is huge. A more diverse society would have a direct impact on the cultural, social and political future of many nations.

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