Most online Americans who are single and looking for dates have used the internet to pursue their romantic interests and millions more Americans know people who have tried and succeeded at online dating.
In a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, there are two central findings that illustrate how important the internet has become for those seeking romance in 21st Century America: First, among the relatively small and active cohort of 10 million internet users who say they are currently single and looking for romantic partners, 74% say they have used the internet in one way or another to further their romantic interests. Second, there is relatively broad public contact with the online dating world because significant numbers of Americans personally know others who have tried and succeeded at online dating. Some 15% of those in this survey of the general public – representing about 30 million Americans – say they know someone who has been in a long-term relationship or married someone they met online. Twice as many know someone who has at least dabbled in the online dating scene.
most internet users believe online dating is dangerous
At the same time, most internet users believe online dating is dangerous because it puts personal information online and they also think that many online daters lie about their marital status.
Most internet users (66%) agree with the statement that online dating is a dangerous activity because it puts personal information on the internet. Some 25% do not consider online dating dangerous. Female internet users, older users, and those who have lower levels of income or education are among the most wary of these risks.
Those who have actually used the services are more confident; 43% think that the activity involves risk, while 52% do not see the activity as dangerous. In a separate question, 6% of online daters say that dating websites do an “excellent” job of protecting people’s personal information, while 32% say they do a “good” job. Another 33% rate the services as “fair” and 12% say the websites do a “poor” job of protecting their information.
While some stigma about online dating persists
The majority (61%) of online adults do not think that people who use online dating are “desperate.” However, 29% hold the view that online daters are in dire dating straits. Internet users who are single and looking for dates are less likely to hold this negative view; only 20% agree that online daters are desperate.
Those who do regard online daters as desperate tend to have less experience online and say they are less trusting of people generally. And although online men are more likely than online women to view dating services as a good way to meet people, they are also more likely to categorize online daters as a desperate group.
One in ten internet users say they have personally gone to dating websites
Those who are in the market for online dating services are a relatively specific group. Looking at the total internet population, 11% of all American internet-using adults—about 16 million people—say they have gone to an online dating website or other site where they can meet people online. We call them online daters in this report.
Our survey also finds that, at the moment, 7% of online adults, or about 10 million people, say they are currently seeking romantic partners. Within this group, 37% have gone to a dating website.