Up to 7% of Americans married between 2005-2012 say they met on social networking sites. This has led to a rash of claims by marketing groups for dating sites that it is the future of romance and that more marriages happen to their technology. Between 3 and 6% of couples say they met that way.

But how much is technology a factor versus other factors? How do couples compare to couples who met through other types of online meetings or the "old-fashioned" way in terms of age, race, frequency of Internet use, and other factors? In an article on the subject, Jeffrey Hall, PhD, a communications scholar at University of Kansas, Lawrence, describes the characteristics that are more common among recently married individuals who met online via social networking sites. 

They have become more prevalent, but most people still use online tools to augment an existing relationship rather than starting one. Use of social networks to initiate romance is very low and slightly more men than women self-report doing it.

Given the self-reported scarcity of people who initiate romance online, marriages should be even more scarce, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The online survey data were drawn from 19,131 respondents (eharmony.com members) who had been married once between 2005 and 2012 and who were not currently engaged to another person. The very young and the very old were excluded. 





Table 1. OLS Logistic Regressions Predicting Characteristics of Individuals Who Met Using Social Networking Sites


 Compared to other online meetings (N=6,429)Compared to all offline meetings (N=13,428)Compared to offline meetings through friends (N=3,644)
 BSEExp(B)BSEExp(B)BSEExp(B)
































































































































































































Sex (female=1) −0.12 0.07 0.89 −0.51 0.06 0.60* −0.51 0.08 0.60*
Race
 African American 0.48 0.12 1.62* 0.16 0.11 1.17 0.50 0.14 1.64*
 Asian American −0.07 0.20 0.93 −0.03 0.19 0.97 −0.03 0.23 0.97
 Native American 0.29 0.48 1.33 0.75 0.42 2.12 0.66 0.53 1.94
 Mixed race −0.25 0.43 0.78 −0.08 0.40 0.93 0.23 0.50 1.25
 Hispanic 0.08 0.08 1.08 0.64 0.07 1.90* 0.75 0.10 2.12*
 Other 0.24 0.78 1.28 −0.39 0.70 0.68 −0.87 0.75 0.42
U.S. region
 East −0.06 0.09 0.94 0.23 0.08 1.26 0.19 0.10 1.21
 Midwest −0.26 0.10 0.77 −0.11 0.09 0.90 −0.21 0.11 0.81
 West −0.20 0.08 0.82 0.13 0.08 1.14 0.14 0.10 1.15
Education −0.04 0.02 0.96 0.00 0.02 1.00 0.03 0.02 1.03
Months ago married −0.01 0.00 1.00* −0.01 0.00 0.99* −0.01 0.00 0.99*
Hours on Internet/wk 0.00 0.00 1.00 0.01 0.00 1.01* 0.01 0.00 1.01*
Income −0.04 0.02 0.96 0.13 0.02 1.14* 0.13 0.02 1.14*
Age −0.05 0.00 0.95* −0.04 0.00 0.96* −0.04 0.00 0.97*
Constant 1.45 0.22 4.26 −0.88 0.19 0.41 0.48 0.25 1.62
R2     0.09     0.08     0.14

Note. *p<0.001; referent white and U.S. South region.


What did the results show? Comparing results of social networks, online dating sites, one-on-one Internet communication (i.e., e-mail, instant message, message on blog) and online communities (i.e., chatroom, discussion group, virtual world, multiplayer game) found that, if marriage is your goal and you want to use social networks, you have more success if you are young and black. People who met on social networks married faster and tended to have higher income. 

To-date, there is no statistically significant difference in divorces.


Citation: Hall Jeffrey A., 'First Comes Social Networking, Then Comes Marriage? Characteristics of Americans Married 2005–2012 Who Met Through Social Networking Sites', Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0408.