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The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You have one of the most unique data sets about modern romance. Well, one of the first things you have to know to understand how dating — or really courtship rituals, since not everyone calls it dating — has changed over time is that the age of marriage in the United States has increased dramatically over time.
I think these things are definitely characteristic of modern romance.
"And mostly they're pretty unfounded." Rosenfeld, who has been keeping tabs on the dating lives of more than 3,000 people, has gleaned many insights about the growing role of apps like Tinder.
They are important today — roughly one of every four straight couples now meet on the Internet.
But the fear that online dating is changing us, collectively, that it's creating unhealthy habits and preferences that aren't in our best interests, is being driven more by paranoia than it is by actual facts.
"There are a lot of theories out there about how online dating is bad for us," Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Stanford who has been conducting a long-running study of online dating, told me the other day.
The age of first marriage is now in the late twenties, and more people in their 30s and even 40s are deciding not to settle down.
The rise of phone apps and online dating websites gives people access to more potential partners than they could meet at work or in the neighborhood.
It makes it easier for someone who is looking for something very specific in a partner to find what they are looking for.
It also helps the people who use the apps by allowing them to enjoy a pattern of regular hookups that don’t have to lead to relationships.
A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bar minding my own business when the woman next to me did something strange.
Surrounded by potential partners, she pulled out her phone, hid it coyly beneath the counter, and opened the online dating app Tinder.
For folks who are meeting people everyday—really younger people in their early twenties—online dating is relevant, but it really becomes a powerful force for people in thin dating markets.