Singles Use Online to Aid Dating Practice

Online dating encompasses both commercial dating Web sites and other means of communication for Internet users. A report released by Pew Internet & American Life Project explores online dating attitudes and behaviors.

The singles scene is moving to the Web for introductions and nurturing relationships. Sixteen million Internet users, about 11 percent of the U.S. Internet population, have gone to an online dating site or other sites where they can meet others online. The report finds there 10 million single online adults looking for relationships; 37 percent of that group has visited an online dating site.

Dating sites are one component of online dating activity. The report says online daters use the Internet “both as a roadmap for the offline world and as a destination to meet people.” About 74 percent of those who describe themselves as single and looking for a partner have used the Internet in at least one way to enable possible dating and romance.

“We found that the Internet and dating-type activities aren’t just happening on dating sites,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Activities that advance dating include flirting (40 percent); dating Web sites (37 percent); asking someone out on a date (28 percent); and finding a destination to meet someone (27 percent).

Dating-Related Online Activities, September-December 2005 (%)
Ways Internet Used for Dating Single and Looking Internet Users
Flirt with someone 40
Go to an online dating Web site 37
Ask someone out on a date 28
Find a place offline, like a nightclub or singles event, where you might meet someone to date 27
Been introduced to a potential date by a third party using email or instant messaging 21
Participate in an online group where you hope to meet people to date 19
Search for info about someone you dated in the past 18
Maintain a long-distance relationship 18
Search for info about someone you were currently dating or were about to meet for a first date 17
Break up with someone you were dating 9
Note: Margin of error is ± 9% for single and looking Internet users (n=140).
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2006

The group that includes the Web in their dating mix still participate in offline dating efforts. “It is part of a full menu of dating options,” said Lenhart. “People who use internet dating for the most part are continuing to explore dating options offline as well.”

Within social networks, even those who haven’t used online dating know others who have. Thirty-one percent of American adults know someone who’s used a dating Web site. Twenty-six percent of American adults know someone who’s gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site, and 15 percent know someone who’s been in a long-term relationship or married a person he or she met online.

“We know from the past that print personals was seen as a somewhat stigmatized activity,” said Lenhart. “It’s taking it from a sub-cultural activity to a more mainstream activity.”

Survey data are from a September 2005 Tracking Survey (Online Dating Extension). The survey was conducted via telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 3,215 adults living n the continental United States. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research International.

U.S. Online Dating User Data, September-December 2005 (%)
Online Daters Internet Users
All Internet users 11 89
Men 12 88
Women 9 91
White 10 90
Black 13 86
Hispanic 14 86
Urban 13 87
Suburban 10 90
Rural 9 91
18-29 18 82
30-49 11 89
50-64 6 93
65 and older 3 97
Household income
Less than $30,000 14 86
$30,000 to $49,999 13 87
$50,000 to $74,999 10 90
$75,000+ 9 91
Home Internet income
Broadband 12 88
Dialup 9 91
Education level
Less than high school 14 86
High school 10 90
Some college 11 89
College and beyond 10 90
Note: Margin of error is ± 2% for all Internet users, but ranges from ± 3% to ± 10% for subgroups. Some figure do not add up to 100% due to non-response.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2006

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