Online dating can be so stressful – filling out the profile and keeping up with all the interactions can feel like a job – so it’s no surprise that sometimes digital romance blooms under more Facebook friend-ly circumstances.Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of Communication Studies at University of Kansas, was surprised to learn that 7% of people who married after meeting online had met for the first time on social networking sites like Facebook, My Space and Class Mates – not matchmaking chat rooms, or online dating sites or via other romance-centric cyber connections.
The sample included 19,131 participants who had been married once between 20, and were asked where they met – was it online dating sites; email or instant messaging; online communities such as chat rooms or virtual reality games; or social networking sites.Those who met on social networking sites were more likely to be younger, married more recently, and African American compared to those who met on other ways on the internet.MORE: And when the participants were compared on marital satisfaction, the partners who met via social networking reported being just as happy as those who were introduced on online dating sites, which tout their compatibility benefits, and more satisfied than those who met on online communities, which nurture conversations among people with similar interests and beliefs.What surprised Hall even more, however, was that the social networking-based relationships were happier than those that began offline, in traditional ways such as being introduced by mutual friends.“I was surprised by a lot of these results,” he says.
“I think that social networking is the digital version of being introduced by friends.” For most of the 20 century, friend-based introductions were the primary way people met their spouse, he says, and social networks may simply be an extension of that pattern.
That could also explain why marriages that began on social networking sites were also no more likely to end in divorce than unions that were generated by online dating sites that involve algorithms and strangers trying to match people together, rather than acquaintances who know their friends’ likes and dislikes and personality best.
MORE: Social networking sites also have another potential advantage over dating services – they aren’t burdened by the pressure of trying to find love and the anxiety of having to present yourself in the best possible light to catch a mate.
While there’s no truth filter on sites like Facebook, and there is certainly some amount of self-promotion and exaggeration, having your circle of friends visit your page can keep you pretty honest, which means by and large, your social network version of you is relatively close to the real thing – at least that’s what the studies show. Conversations, observations and interactions on social networking sites may be more casual and low risk, relieved of the pressure and anticipation of a potential date (or rejection for a potential date) that shadow every picture, message and response on dating sites.
“In part, social networking sites provide a low risk, high reward place to meet people,” says Hall.
“It’s a good place to do some investigating and a good place to learn about people that doesn’t carry the self-presentational weight of creating an online dating profile.” The fact that most of the marriages were among African-Americans could reflect the fact that at the time the data were collected, between 20, African-Americans and Latinos were over-represented on social networking sites compared to their proportions in the general population.