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Pew: More Americans Looking for Love Online

By Natalie Campisi
Feb 12, 2016 12:21 AM PT

Online dating numbers are up in the United States, the Pew Research Center said Thursday, based on the results of a recent survey.

Today, it's possible for singles from all walks of life to find a date who's compatible with them -- at least virtually -- the findings suggest. As the online dating world expands, adding ever more nuanced sites -- like The League, which targets affluent, ambitious go-getters who are looking for the same -- more people are signing up.

In its national survey of 2,001 adults, conducted between June 10 and July 12, 2015, Pew found that 12 percent had used an online dating site, up slightly from 9 percent in early 2013. Nine percent of the survey participants had used a dating app on their cellphone -- three times more than in early 2013, when just 3 percent reported using mobile apps.

Easy and Full Of Options

Why the increase? The answer is clear, said dating coach Patti Feinstein. It's easy, fast and appeals to people who are used to choosing from a lot of options.

"First of all, everybody's on social media, so it's easy. But at the end of the day, it's a numbers game -- and it's always gonna be a numbers game," she told TechNewsWorld. "People want to expand their reach. I see people getting [dates] from online dating, from friends, from speed dating. Everything is fair game."

One issue that has plagued online dating is the stigma that it's for desperate people, but that's an old-fashioned notion, Feinstein said. "You've got Tinder, the hook-up site, which helped to make online dating cool. On top of that, everybody's a techie now, so no one bats an eye at online dating. It's part of the process."

Another interesting finding in Pew's survey is the uptick in younger users, specifically 18- to 24-year-olds. That group almost has tripled in just a couple of years, jumping from 10 percent in early 2013 to 27 percent in July of 2015.

Typically, people remain connected socially for at least several years after high school, so why are young adults turning to online dating to meet people?

It's the same reason as for older adults, Feinstein said. They value the ease of access to people who are appealing and compatible.

"If it's winter time or in the middle of the night, it's window shopping in your pajamas. You can look around to see what's available. There's no pressure; it's like talking to someone on the phone," Feinstein said.

Full of Risks

While online dating sites may have their virtues, there also are legitimate concerns about the trend toward digital dating.

Dating website users should be cautious about whom they're interacting with from the start, said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

"You need to start with the premise that the person you're communicating with online may not be the individual that he or she represents him or herself to be," he told TechNewsWorld.

"You need to assume that the individual may be a predator, a criminal, someone out to steal your identity -- or that they may have an ulterior motive," Stephens continued, "because there's no way for you to verify that the picture is theirs, and even what they say about them is true."

Despite accounts of online dating experiences gone wrong, interest isn't waning, Pew's survey results suggest. How can people enjoy the benefits while protecting themselves from potential predators?

The key is to keep your information private until you really know a person, according to Stephens, and to pay attention to your intuition.

"Obviously, choose public, crowded locations to meet your date until you're really comfortable with him or her," he advised.

However, "once you've established that the face matches up with the online profile, you're still not in the clear,' Stephens warned. 'The first impression you get may not be an accurate one, so until you take the time to get to know them, don't reveal personal information, like your home address or workplace."

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