No, it’s not the title for an upcoming sci-fi spoof but rather an interesting, non-fiction trend that could easily spell doom for singles’ bars around the country: The number of people hooking up through online coupling platforms is shooting up dramatically. With the ever-increasing pace of technological advance, the trend itself probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the rapid snowballing does seem to suggest a significant cultural shift when it comes to relationships and intimacy. Are the likes of Match, eHarmony and AdultFriendFinder about to surpass the more old-school methods for finding happily ever after?
The basic numbers look like this: A report released on January 1st by the online trending service, Statistic Brain, claims that over 41 million Americans have tried some form of online dating service as of the end of 2013, almost doubling the approximately 25 million reported to have used such sites in 2011. The report also puts the current annual revenue of online dating services at just over $1.2 billion (though other industry analysts have put it closer to $2 billion with 4-5% annual growth forecasted through 2015) and claims that the current average length of courtships-to-marriages for those meeting online is just over 18 months, compared to 42 months for couples who met offline. Interestingly, the gender split for online dating site users is fairly even (52% male/48% female).
The sharp up-spike could be explained by any number of factors ranging from tech-convenience to economic conditions during the past few years to outright laziness in some cases, but it’s certainly not a trend without pitfalls. Although most online dating sites boast fairly extensive screening processes as a core part of their services, the nature of connecting by the web is still such that there’s plenty of room for, um, shall we say, misrepresentation. Yeah, okay, fine: Lying. The report states that both genders are inclined to lie about age, with men also lying most about height while women lie most about weight. Perhaps it’s not the best strategy in the world to begin a potential relationship with a “maybe they won’t notice” approach, but people are indeed funny animals.
In any event, as with most collisions between personal intimacy and technological enablement, it will probably be a while before this all sorts itself out–or morphs further into something even more likely to sound like a sci-fi spoof today. The question is: What do you think it will be?