Dutton, W, H., Helsper, E.J., Whitty, M.T., Li, N., Buckwalter, J.G. & Lee, E. (2009) The Role of the Internet in Reconfiguring Marriages: a Cross-National Study. Interpersona, 3(2), 3-18.
This study explores the role of the Internet in reconfiguring marriages, introducing couples that meet in person and later marry, through a set of online surveys of married couples in Britain, Australia, and Spain. The study found that a sizeable proportion of online married couples in each country first met their spouse online, usually through an online dating service, chat room or on instant messaging (IM). This was more the case for younger couples. Moreover, the study indicates that meeting online is likely to introduce people to others whom they would not be as likely to meet through other means. The Internet might well open people to more diversity in their choice of a partner, such as by introducing individuals with greater differences in age or education, but with more similar interests and values. These findings are preliminary, but suggestive of significant social trends and indirect implications of social networking in the digital age.
notes and quotes:
OxIS showed that in 2007, almost a quarter of Internet users (23%) had met someone online who they did not know before. This was up from 20 percent in 2005. Not only did Internet users meet new friends online, about half of these individuals have gone on to meet one or more of these virtual friends in person
Socio-demographic characteristics, such as being single, shape patterns of Internet use and are related to the greater propensity of some individuals to make online social relationships
In the UK, about 6% of married couples who use the Internet met their partners online and a similar proportion is reported in Spain (5%). In Australia, with younger married couples, the percentage was higher, 9% saying they met their partner online.
NOTE: the mean length of time the couples in this study had been married was between 10 months (US) and 19 years (UK), which will affect the proportion of people who met online
In the UK, a fifth (21%) of married individuals between 19 and 25 years of age met their spouse online, while in Australia, this figure was even higher, one-third (34%). In the US, the largest percentage of individuals meeting online (42%) could be found within the age group of 26 to 35 years.
In the UK, an online dating site was the most frequently mentioned as a place where the couple met online, by 34%. This was followed by online chat rooms (19%) and instant messaging (18%). In Spain, chat rooms were the most frequently mentioned (40%), followed by instant messaging (22%) and online dating sites (14%). …In Australia most people [met] through chat rooms (26%), followed by an online dating site (18%) and instant messaging (23%). The pattern in the US was similar to that of the UK with most people meeting through an online dating site (49%), followed by chat rooms (13%) and instant messaging (12%).
the frequency of couples meeting online is likely to increase in the coming years. Younger couples were more likely to meet online, and OxIS suggests that those growing up with the Internet are likely to take this medium as a more natural place to meet people, generally (Dutton & Helsper 2007)
social networking sites are becoming more prominent in linking people through common friends and social networks, and therefore likely to grow in their relevance to dating and partnerships
individuals who met their spouse on the Internet showed a larger difference in age and educational background with their spouse than those who met offline.
those who met their partner online did not place less importance on physical attraction than did those who met each other in other ways
it may be that those who met online have more similar interests which could be one reason why age and educational backgrounds appear less determinative of relationships.
couples who meet online place greater emphasis in a variety of partner characteristics, suggesting that meeting someone online may be a more measured and selective way to find a partner…Alternatively, it could be that interactions online are driven more by cognitions, rather than emotions, leading people to be more attentive to characteristics important to them and less influenced by characteristics not as relevant but more embedded in their present social networks, such as age and socioeconomic status.