A new study says it offers the first evidence that online dating is changing the nature of society.
The research was conducted by Josue Ortega at the University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria.
It essentially argues that online dating is changing society because it is bringing together strangers who otherwise would not have been connected together.
As Ortega and Hergovich say in their study, when people meet through online dating, it sets up social links that were previously nonexistent as “people who meet online tend to be complete strangers”.
This is in comparison to most social networks where people are closely connected to a small group of neighbours, and more loosely connected to more distant people.
“Those weak ties serve as bridges between our group of close friends and other clustered groups, allowing us to connect to the global community,” the researchers say.
And it was these clustered groups outside core friendship circles that, before online dating, were the biggest sources of new relationships – whether friends-of-friends, work, bars or common interest groups.
The researchers then go on to investigate how the introduction of this type of “random” connection changes the racial diversity of society, by analysing what happens when a social network is added to.
Their model found that if people from different ethnic groups were introduced via the “new links” brought about by online dating, the level of interracial marriage increased: “Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small.”
The researchers even claim that the rate of increase in interracial marriages closely mirrors the spikes in popularity that online dating has seen over the years.
Ortega and Hergovich said: “It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly.”
They say the rate of interracial marriages continued to increase in the 2000s, and spiked again in 2014 with the emergence of dating apps like Tinder.
Dealing with the argument that this increase could be instead due to the decrease in the percentage of Americans who are white, the researchers said: “The change in the population composition in the U.S. cannot explain the huge increase in intermarriage that we observe.”
It’s a big claim, one that the MIT Technology Review called: “A profound revelation. These changes are set to continue, and to benefit society as result.”
Read more about the study here.