Cupid's arrows have officially gone virtual.
Online dating has become the #2 form of matchmaking in the U.S., scientists at the University of Rochester now report. Only meeting through mutual friends is a more popular way to meet a mate.
The scientists, whose research is slated for publication in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reviewed over 400 psychology studies and public interest surveys. In one study, they found that in a single month in 2011, nearly 25 million unique users around the world were online dating.
"Online dating is definitely a new and much needed twist on relationships," study co-author Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the university, said in a written statement. Studies in behavioral economics show that the dating market in Western society is grossly inefficient, particularly once people leave high school or college, he said. "The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health," he said.
But there are downsides to looking for love on the web, according to Reis. Skimming over hundreds of potential mates can promote a "shopping" mentality, in which people are excessively picky and judgmental. Also, many online daters correspond with one another for weeks or months by computer before ever meeting face-to-face, which has been shown to yield unrealistic expectations.
Reis also said that claims by web sites offering a "science-based" approach that uses sophisticated algorithms to match people have not been supported by independent research.
But that doesn't seem to have affected algorithm-based sites' popularity. So will you take your chances on love, or enlist the help of an e-cupid?