Online dating numbers double, appeals to college students

The Daily News

Without the Internet, junior prenursing major Maxine Wallace’s two-year relationship with her boyfriend, a medical engineer in Toronto, wouldn’t exist. After meeting on, the long-distance couple relies on Skype sessions and occasional in-person visits to keep them connected. With online dating numbers doubling within the last five years, Wallace is among the many college students finding love online. 

According to, the business grew from $900 million in 2007 to $1.9 billion in 2012. Popular dating sites have tens of millions of users. Zoosk, which targets a younger audience ages 25-35, is the most popular with 50 million members. EHarmony has 20 million members, and has 15 million.

Assistant anthropology professor Jennifer Erickson said there are specific reasons why more people choose to date online now.

“We’re living longer, divorcing more and migrating more — both rural to urban, within nations and internationally,” Erickson said.

She also said people are busier than ever before, working longer hours and not having time to date the old-fashioned way. 

According to, couples who meet online get married faster, with an average of 18.5 months. Couples who meet offline take an average of 40 months to tie the knot.

Though Wallace is still in school, she said she and Franklin Straus both know they want to get married and have kids. 

“It’s too much money, time and emotions involved if you’re not serious,” she said. “We have to be really committed. We knew that from the beginning.”

There are smartphone applications for dating as well. Major dating sites like and offer smartphone applications for their services. Many others can be found by simply searching “dating” on a smartphone app store.

Grindr is a smartphone and tablet application geared toward gay men. It uses GPS technology to find gay men in the vicinity. Many use the app to find hook-ups, but it can also be used for dating. According to Grindr, there are more than 4 million users around the world since its launch in 2009. And Grindr is where Richard Dickson and Michael Harrison’s* current relationship bloomed from. 

Dickson, a senior history major, said there’s a smaller pool to find relationships for gay people than their heterosexual counterparts. He said he’s a proponent of online dating because it allows users to meet people outside of their friend group.

“I’d rather meet a complete stranger and have no awkwardness,” Dickson said. “Your friend group doesn’t judge you if it doesn’t work out. I think a lot of people date in a friend group, and it’s dangerous because you can tarnish your friendship.”

Dickson and Harrison’s first date consisted of picking up Oreo cookies at Marsh and watching the movie, “Finding Neverland.” Even though Dickson was comfortable, Harrison said it was a slightly nerve-wracking experience.

“I was waiting to make sure that [Dickson] was the real person I was texting,” Harrison, a senior architecture major, said. “It was stepping out of the Internet, and I felt like I had to stay guarded.”

Though Harrison was nervous at first, him and Dickson have been exclusive since October 2012. Harrison considers himself very happy, but he is not openly gay like Dickson.

“I don’t think that not being out has changed my relationship,” Harrison said. “I’m to the point where I don’t bend over to hide it anymore. I don’t really care. If my friends are there, I don’t go out of my way to hide [Dickson].”

In addition to websites and applications specifically geared toward dating, social media sites are being used to connect potential relationships as well.

Elysia Smith, a senior creative writing major, met a woman on the popular blogging site, Tumblr. Smith blogged poetry she wrote, and the woman offered critiques. 

“We ended up talking about more than just poetry and before I knew it, I was traveling from Indiana to Maine to meet her,” she said. 

Though Smith said she had the adventure she expected, the relationship didn’t pan out because of distance. Smith said she still talks to the woman regularly and, “if anything, I had a blast and made a lifelong friend.”

Smith said the lesbian community in Muncie is very small, and that is why she geared towards online dating. Smith believes the risks in online dating come down to honesty. She said dating online is difficult because people have to take each other for their word. She also said she misses going on dates and having face-to-face communication.

“Since we suddenly have abundant methods of communication, a word doesn’t make great relationship-building currency,” she said. “I miss meeting people rather than getting to know them [by] how they move, smell or smile when nervous.” 

*Note: These names have been changed because the sources wish to remain anonymous.