A recent study published in CyberPsychology & Behavior examined the characteristics of Internet users who use an online dating service (such as Match.com or eHarmony). The researchers Valkenburg and Peter (2007) found that 43% of Internet singles had visited an online dating site to date or find a romantic partner. Because the actual study was conducted nearly 2 1/2 years ago (and how quickly things change when talking about the online world), I suspect that number is even higher today.
Isn’t online dating just for people who can afford it, or for smart people? Nope, the researchers found no significant relationship between either income or education levels. There was also no significant difference between which gender visited online dating sites more — both women and men visited such sites fairly equally.
Divorcees are 3 times more likely to use an online dating site than the average Internet user, and online dating sites skew toward middle-aged adults (right around 40, which makes sense since typically the younger you are, the easier it is to date — e.g., more social opportunities to do so).
I particularly agreed with the authors’ insights about how the longer we’re on the Internet as a society, the more it becomes an integrated component of society. Our real-world personalities become more and more reflected online:
Online dating seems to be an activity particularly of individuals who are low in dating anxiety. These individuals seem to use the Internet as just another venue to find a partner. Our results concur with a recent series of related studies on the relations between social personality variables and Internet use.
These studies all disconfirm the hypothesis that people use the Internet to compensate for deficits they encounter in the offline world. By now, the Internet is so widely used that the online population increasingly resembles the offline population. As a result, patterns that occur in the offline world also increasingly emerge in online life. For example, the extraverted make more friends online than the introverted; the nonlonely communicate more frequently on the Internet than the lonely; and those low in dating anxiety are more likely to turn to online dating than those high in dating anxiety.
The study’s limitations?
Well, it was done only on 367 Dutch adult singles between 18 and 60 years old. No word on whether us crazy Americans have similar online dating characteristics.
Reference: Valkenburg, P.M. & Peter, J. (2007). Who Visits Online Dating Sites? Exploring Some Characteristics of Online Daters. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(6): 849-852.