Nick Knittel, left, and Amanda Magnus have been dating for over a year.
It’s estimated that 70 percent of couples will have met online by the year 2040, according to a study by the Imperial College of London.
Of course, people have been using the technology of the time to find romance way before the Internet was invented. In the early 1700s, British newspapers printed matrimonial ads for bachelors seeking brides. Matchmaking agencies have existed for centuries around the world, too.
And while the history of online dating only spans about two decades, more than 40 million people have used sites like eHarmony and Match.com to look for a partner. Now, online daters are using smartphone apps as well as websites to find that special person.
Nick Knittel and Amanda Magnus have been dating for about a year and a half. They met on Tinder, arguably the most popular mobile dating app. Unlike most dating websites, Tinder doesn’t ask its users to fill out a personality profile. Users simply swipe their finger to indicate “yes” or “no” to pictures of people nearby. If two people swipe yes to each other, they can start messaging.
“I still remember the first message Nick sent to me,” said Magnus. “‘So clearly you’re awesome. We should chat.””
Tinder’s focus on photographs has been criticized as being shallow. And while both Knittel and Magnus agree, they say Tinder gave them a new perspective on dating.
“I liked Tinder because I was meeting people that I was not going to ordinarily run into I think in everyday life,” said Knittel.
“Essentially, what you’re doing is shopping for a partner,” said Magnus. “It’s very similar to online shopping.”
Dating expert Catalina Toma studies online dating at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Initially, when online dating came to the scene it was regarded a crutch for the desperate,” said Toma. “It was really stigmatized initially. But the tool has proven to be quite useful for people looking to find partners in a more low-pressure environment.”
According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans today say online dating is a good way to meet someone. But people aren’t just using apps like Tinder to find a boyfriend or girlfriend.
When Emiko Morimoto, 22, started using Tinder in 2013, she said most people saw it as a hookup app. She said she used it to meet different people.
“Like when I got my wisdom teeth out, I was bored and my face was really puffy and I really wanted ice cream and I was like free ice cream would be better and I made some schlub get it for me,” Morimoto said. “That came from Tinder.”
Toma said at the very foundation, apps like Tinder are databases of people who are interested in talking to new people. And while some might use dating apps to hookup or get free ice cream, she said it’s really an old-fashioned idea.
“It’s important to realize it’s not changing romance,” said Toma. “It’s changing the way we initiate romance perhaps. It’s giving us an initial tool for identifying potential partners but not necessarily changing the way we manage relationships.”
Knittel and Magnus agree. They said they didn’t establish a connection online. They established a connection on their first date.
Toma is glad that judgment towards online dating is waning, but she thinks there are still some obstacles.
“People might still prefer stumbling on a desired partner face to face without having to resort to the technology because it does feel more romantic,” Toma said.
Knittel said while Tinder might not seem as romantic as bumping into the right person randomly.
“I still think there’s a measure of serendipity to it all because especially with the amount of people you are seeing or coming across, there’s still chance with it,” Knittel said.
And users come across a lot of people. Tinder boasts that it makes more than 26 million connections every day.