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Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.
Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.
Sites - Impact - Behavior - Evidence - Effect
Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.
For more than 50 years, researchers have studied the nature of the networks that link people to each other. These social networks turn out to have a peculiar property.
Type - Network - Links - Node - Neighbors
One obvious type of network links each node with its nearest neighbors, in a pattern like a chess board or chicken wire. Another obvious kind of network links nodes at random. But real social networks are not like either of these. Instead, people are strongly connected to a relatively small group of neighbors and loosely connected to much more distant people.
These loose connections turn out to be extremely important. “Those weak ties serve as bridges between our group of close friends and other clustered groups, allowing us to connect to the global community,” say Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria.
Ties - Role - Partners - People - Date
Loose ties have traditionally played a key role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were highly likely to date people who were linked with their group of friends; a friend of a friend, for example. In the language of network theory, dating partners were embedded in each other’s networks.
Indeed, this has long been reflected in surveys of the way people meet their partners: through mutual friends, in bars, at work, in...
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