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Mate Selection in the Network Society: The Role of the Internet in Reconfiguring Marriages in Australia, the United Kingdom and United States

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Document pages: 25 pages

Abstract: This working paper explores the role of the Internet in reconfiguring marriages, introducing couples that meet in person and later marry, through a set of online surveys of married couples in Britain, Australia, and the US. We found that a sizeable proportion of online married couples in each country first met their spouse online, usually through an online dating service, chat room or on instant messaging (IM). This is more prominent for younger couples, but many couples at all ages can be found who met online. Moreover, our initial analyses, based on UK couples, indicate that meeting online is likely to introduce people to others whom they would not be as likely to meet through other means. The Internet might well open people to more diversity in their choice of a partner, such as by introducing individuals with greater differences in age or education, but with more similar interests and values. These findings are preliminary, but suggestive of significant social trends and indirect implications of social networking in the digital age. Based on these observations, we are planning to extend our analyses of the differences across couples introduced online and offline to our Australian and US samples. Also, we are planning additional surveys in more countries that can examine the degree that these findings can be supported in other contexts and overtime. This working paper was prepared for discussion at a forum, entitled Meeting, Dating, Marriage and the Internet , held at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, 3 October 2008. The research was supported by a grant from eHarmony, a US based online match-making company supporting research on the science of relationships.

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