Internet couples tend to be a better fit than those who meet by traditional means, according to fresh research
By Julia Llewellyn Smith
Trio:53PM BST 08 Jun 2013
Anna Wilkinson has been married for seven years, has two youthful children, and –, albeit tired –, is delighted with her lot. “,I was 33, had just cracked up with my beau and was beginning to think I’,d never have a family life. I’,d always been attracted to mavericks, spectacular fellows, who –, after a year or so –, made it clear they had no intention of lodging down.
“,Albeit I felt a bit of a loser, I joined an online dating agency. I packed forms about my interests, my opinions and my individual goals –, which was having a family –, something I’,d been too frightened to mention to my exes in the early days for fear of scaring them off.
“,But the boys I was introduced to were told what I wished and collective those desires. All the game-playing was skipped. From the off we were on the same page and then it was only a matter of finding someone I also found physically attractive and that was Mark, the third man I met.”,
Wilkinson is far from alone. One in five relationships in the UK starts online, according to latest surveys, and almost half of all British singles have searched for love on the internet. Just today, nine million Britons will log on looking for love.
The result is that, rather than being someone that defies all calculation, love is now big business worth an annual $Four billion internationally and growing at 70 per cent a year –, with high-tech venture capitalists, psychologists and software engineers reaping vast prizes.
Academics, meantime, are fascinated by the data being gathered —, and largely kept secret —, by the dating industry. “,We’,d love to get hold of more of it, but they’,re not keen to share however we’,re in discussion with a few of them,”, says Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University and author of The Science of Love and Betrayal. “,They have a thick database and they also can go after couples’, stories through, which hasn’,t been possible so far.”, For most of history, using a third party to help you find love was the norm. But in the 20th century this all switched, with youthfull people determining they wished to be in charge of their own domestic destinies. Matchmakers were viewed as hook-nosed crones from Fiddler on the Roof or pushy Mrs Bennet at the Pemberley ball. From Romeo and Juliet, to dashing Mr Rochester choosing plain Jane Eyre, we celebrated stories of Cupid’,s dart striking randomly.
But since 1995 when the very first online dating site was launched, the tables have downright turned. Cash-rich, time-poor professionals who already do everything from shop to socialise online, now see a search engine as the visible gateway to love.
Scarred by their parents’, (or their own) divorces, this generation approaches affairs of the heart with the same pragmatism as it might buying a car or booking a holiday.
But can something as nebulous as everlasting love indeed be found via a computer chip? Yes, according to psychologists at Chicago University who last week reported that marriages that begin online –, whether on an online dating site or via social networking sites like Facebook –, stood a greater chance of success than those that began in the “,real world”,.
The researchers interviewed 20,000 people who had married inbetween 2005 and 2012. Just over a third had met their spouse online –, and their marriages were 25 per cent more likely to last than those of couples who’,d met via traditional routes –, in a bar, at work, or via family and friends. Moreover, couples who’,d very first met face-to-face reported slightly less satisfaction with their relationships than their online counterparts.
Professor John Cacioppo, who led the examine, said the sheer number of available potential playmates online could be among the reasons for the results. There was also the fact that dating sites were more likely “,attract people who are serious about getting married.”,
Paula Hall, a counsellor for Relate, agrees that the main advantage of online dating is that “,couples are more likely to be on a level playing field and share the same agenda.
“,Any relationship that forms is more likely to be based on a collective value system, the same interests, the same legwork as opposed to a relationship based on chemistry alone, which, as we all know, is the quality that tends to fade very first in a relationship.”,
The cheapest dating sites suggest a smorgasbord for customers to browse, with thousands of studs and women claiming a GSOH and posting out-of-date photos. But other sites, which can cost up to ?Trio,000 a year to join, suggest their clients a bespoke selection of potential fucking partners to share your love of sushi, dachshunds or The Apprentice.
There are dedicated websites for every religion, for the unhappily married, for the beautiful –, where existing members determine if you merit joining their ranks –, the overweight, Oxbridge graduates, country paramours –, not to mention Telegraph readers (dating.telegraph.co.uk).
Many companies go further. Using slogans such as “,love is no coincidence”, they test samples of your slaver in order to make the best DNA match for you –, claiming that these couples are more likely to have suffering relationships, satisfying hook-up lives and higher fertility rates.
Others employ dozens of scientists to create sophisticated, top-secret algorithms to match customers with similar personality traits (as opposed to collective interests, which are a far less significant predictor of compatibility), disregarding the adage “,opposites attract”,.
But do such sites indeed have a scientific basis? “,One suspects a lot of their claims are hype,”, says Professor Dunbar. “,Do they truly know what the criteria are that make a successful long-term relationship, when it’,s not something that the scientists still know that much about? These algorithms can most likely pick up some key things –, for example, it’,s true we’,re more likely to be friends with people with the same values as us, who share our cultural milieu.
“,But you can’,t predict what googlies life’,s going to throw at a relationship, for example one of the fattest predictors of being divorced is being made redundant and no one knows if that is going to happen to them or not.”,
“,Overall,”, he adds. “,I’,d hazard that your chances of finding love through one of these sites is most likely about Ten to 15 percentage points greater than through traditional means.”,
For all the claims of success, some experts warn that the online dating is making monogamy more, rather than less, elusive. “,I’,ve found a tendency for the ‘grass is greener mentality’, to set in, where the person they’,ve set their glances on seems fine until they determine to check out ‘just a few more profiles’, and spot an ‘even better’, singleton,”, warns relationship accomplished Dr Pam Spurr, author of Love Academy.
“,I’,ve known of people who end up spending uncountable hours on internet dating sites wooed they’,ll find the flawless person. My message is no one is ideal so this is a futile endeavour.
“,A secondary problem to this is feeling you don’,t match up to your competition because the longer you spend on sites, the more you realise you’,re up against vast numbers of singles. Many singles I’,ve met report commencing out fairly confidently on online dating sites but then begin to feel they’,re simply not good enough.”,
Lucy Wilkinson, has only one regret about her online dating adventures. “,I only wish I’,d signed up years earlier, then Mark and I might have met sooner. Nobody’,s ideal, but for me, he’,s as close as it comes.”,
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