Couples Now Need Fewer Words To Explain How They Met

Seriously, how many words does it take to say, “I signed up for”

Up until about 2013, telling a story about how a couple met was bound to include some interesting anecdotes about being in love since the 5th grade, meeting at work or at church, being introduced by an aunt or encountering “a friend of a friend.” Not anymore! Today, about 39 percent of heterosexual couples meet through online dating services. That number goes up to 65 percent for same-sex couples.

So says a recent study from Stanford University and University of New Mexico researchers. Their research has determined that today, U.S. couples use fewer words to talk about how they met compared with a decade ago. Specifically, answers to the question “How did you meet?” were about 67 words in length in 2009. In 2017, they were only 37 words long.

Why has this happened? Well, the authors of the study believe this change has been driven by technology. Where once people acted as intermediaries to help other people vet their potential mates, now phones do. Online-based dating services have widened the pool of potential partners while also rendering assistance by friends, relatives and co-workers unnecessary. The researchers call this phenomenon “disintermediation.”

dating photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford, Reuben J. Thomas of the University of New Mexico and Sonia Housen of Stanford reviewed information from existing 2009 and 2017 datasets to come to their conclusions. They believe that potential reasons for the rise in internet dating include the fact that online dating sites can provide more up-to-date, objective knowledge than an in-common acquaintance. Thus, the algorithms used by dating sites can make compatibility more likely. The reduction of stigma associated with online data and the rise of cellphone-based dating apps have also assisted the process.

Although they did not come to a particular conclusion about why couples that met online were less wordy than those who met in other ways, the authors did imply that the lack of an initial personal connection could be one reason. They cite previous researchers, however, in pointing out that some advantages to internet-based dating may include having the time and distance to frame conversations more carefully, the ability to find common communities that aren’t necessarily geographically close and the ability to share intimate things that may be more awkward to talk about in person.

How did you meet your significant other? Can you tell the story in 40 words or less?