A few weeks ago, Stanford released a study that tracked how couples have met each other over the past 80 years. The most dramatic thing about it was the least surprising: Since the year 2000, coupledom via online dating has gone skyward.
But the changes in other methods of meeting were striking to me too. Friend intros are in sharp decline. Workplace romances, like Furbies and Bill Clinton playing the saxophone, peaked in the 90s. Elementary school romances are done. College sweethearts too. Your church friends? They want no part of your messy romantic life. The only other way of meeting that is trending up is having your best friend hip-check you into someone cute at a bar or restaurant.
I saw this dataset because when I am not editing this website, I spend my evenings reading academic studies in a majestic library to pass the time until my one true love appears in front of me, gently chides me for being so adorably bookish, and invites me to walk hand-in-hand into the most sublime sunset either of us has even seen. JK, I saw it on Twitter, which I was looking at because I needed a break from swiping, an activity I find increasingly boring even if the people I could meet through dating apps are not. (Twitter as a palate cleanser… imagine.)
I, personally, don’t really care how I am introduced to someone. But as a person who very much relishes a good origin story, it does pain me a little bit to say that. It’s not just that meeting online is kind of a one-note narrative, it’s also that I’ve personally thought of it as a supplemental approach to meeting interesting people during my day-to-day life, which I still regularly do, despite—it turns out—getting literally no help from anyone in my orbit!
When I mentioned the study to friends, people had pretty wide-ranging reactions. Some were thankful to be unburdened by coordinating setups and risking the fallout of a chaotic breakup. (Those people tended to be in relationships, lol, while the singles simply shook their heads in dismay.) Another person found a silver lining in the graph’s suggestion of a rise in romantic autonomy: If apps and bars and restaurants are the most random, contextless way of meeting someone, then maybe we’re ultimately committing to people for reasons of compatibility instead of convenience. (OK, that person was actually me. Always in hot pursuit of the silver lining.)
Anyway… what do you think about the study? It is good news? Bad news? Do you still cling to visions of rom-com style meet-cutes or are all of these possibilities just a means to an end?
Graphics by Kayla Kern.