A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bar minding my own business when the woman next to me did something strange.
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.
"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.
There are online sites that cater to hookups, sure, but there are also online sites that cater to people looking for long-term relationships.
What’s more, many people who meet in the online sites that cater to hookups end up in long-term relationships.Is it creating a new reality in which people actively avoid real-life interactions?Of course, others have worried about these sorts of questions before.In fact, by several measures, online dating has proved even more useful — both to individuals and society — than the traditional avenues it has replaced.I spoke with Rosenfeld to hear more about his research, to learn about the ways in which the rise of online dating is defining modern love, and to talk about the biggest misconceptions people have about online dating.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.