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Adults with Internet Access Have More Romantic Relationships—Especially Gays

By L.K. Regan

Here's one that won't surprise RealJockers—and may even provide some encouragement. Research presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association indicates that people with internet access are much more likely to be in romantic relationships than those without it. More and more, we are falling (and staying) in love over the internet.

The researchers (Michael Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, and Reuben Thomas, assistant professor of sociology at the City University of New York) found a 20% difference in partnership rates for those who had internet in comparison to those who did not. Using data gathered as part of the national How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey (HCMST), the professors found that 82.2% of adults with internet access at home had a spouse or romantic partner, as opposed to 62.8% for those without access. The survey uses data collected from 4,002 adults nationwide.

This research gives a glimpse of what the researchers consider a groundshift in the ways couples form. "With the meteoric rise of the Internet as a way couples have met in the past few years, and the concomitant recent decline in the central role of friends, it is possible that in the next several years the Internet could eclipse friends as the most influential way Americans meet their romantic partners, displacing friends out of the top position for the first time since the early 1940s," Rosenfeld said.

Finally, the researchers found a result that will likely not surprise our readers: gay couples are far more likely to meet online, thus overcoming the difficulties of stigma and a smaller population. Among the couples who met in the first two years of the survey, 61% of same-sex couples met online, as opposed to 21.5% of straight couples. "Couples who meet online are much more likely to be same-sex couples, and somewhat more likely to be from different religious backgrounds," Rosenfeld said.

"The Internet is not simply a new and more efficient way to keep in touch with our existing networks," he continued. "Rather the Internet is a new kind of social intermediary that may reshape the kinds of partners and relationships we have."