Online dating has not only shed its stigma but has surpassed all forms of matchmaking in the United States apart from meeting through friends, a new study has revealed.
The digital revolution in romance is a boon to singles, providing greater and more convenient access to potential partners, reported the team of psychological scientists who prepared the review.
But the industry's claims to offering a "science-based" approach with sophisticated algorithm-based matching have not been substantiated by independent researchers and, therefore, "should be given little credence," they concluded.
"Online dating is definitely a new and much needed twist on relationships," said Harry Reis, one of the five co-authors of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
Behavioural economics has shown that the dating market for singles in Western society is grossly inefficient, especially once individuals exit high school or college, he explained.
"The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health," said Reis.
But online love has its pitfalls, Reis cautioned. Comparing dozens and sometimes hundreds of possible dates may encourage a "shopping" mentality in which people become judgmental and picky, focusing exclusively on a narrow set of criteria like attractiveness or interests.
And corresponding by computer for weeks or months before meeting face-to-face has been shown to create unrealistic expectations, he said.
The 64-page analysis reviewed more than 400 psychology studies and public interest surveys, painting a full and fascinating picture of an industry that, according to one industry estimate, attracted 25 million unique users around the world in April 2011 alone.
The will be published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.