The age of first marriage is now in the late twenties, and more people in their 30s and even 40s are deciding not to settle down.
It makes it easier for someone who is looking for something very specific in a partner to find what they are looking for.
It also helps the people who use the apps by allowing them to enjoy a pattern of regular hookups that don’t have to lead to relationships.
But the fear that online dating is changing us, collectively, that it's creating unhealthy habits and preferences that aren't in our best interests, is being driven more by paranoia than it is by actual facts.
"There are a lot of theories out there about how online dating is bad for us," Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Stanford who has been conducting a long-running study of online dating, told me the other day.
For folks who are meeting people everyday—really younger people in their early twenties—online dating is relevant, but it really becomes a powerful force for people in thin dating markets.
In a 2012 paper, I wrote about how among heterosexuals, the people who are most likely to use online dating are the middle-aged folks, because they’re the ones in the thinnest dating market.
We see this in consumer goods — if there are too many flavors of jam at the store, for instance, you might feel that it’s just too complicated to consider the jam aisle, you might end up skipping it all together, you might decide it's not worth settling down with one jam. I don’t think that that theory, even if it’s true for something like jam, applies to dating.
I actually don’t see in my data any negative repercussions for people who meet partners online.
There are online sites that cater to hookups, sure, but there are also online sites that cater to people looking for long-term relationships.
What’s more, many people who meet in the online sites that cater to hookups end up in long-term relationships.
It’s harder to feel alone when you’re 23, because everyone is a potential partner.