Online dating is pervasive in our culture. Now, if you are single, it is perfectly natural to scan potential mates via your smartphone with hopes to meet them for friendship, a long-term relationship, or anything in-between.
The stigma has vanished. A Pew report found that 44 million Americans are dating online and 60 percent of all people believe online dating is a good way to meet potential mates, an increase from 44 percent two years prior. Among the young, those aged 18-24, online dating is highest. Nearly 30 percent of them are active online dating users, a threefold increase from 2013.
We are now moving past the point where online dating is news. Most people have a smartphone and, if they are single, most people will incorporate dating sites into their search for a match.
But what is new about online dating is how it has broken down the stigma of interracial dating.
Think about it. We tend to date within our circles of friends and family or within the spaces we occupy most, like work or the gym. We rarely step outside those invisible boundaries mainly because they represent our comfort zones, so therefore there isn’t a big need. If we live in areas or work in industries that are more homogenous, it is natural that, when we date, we tend to date people who look like us or with whom we share cultural traits.
Online dating is a new space and it has no boundaries. People go there because they are either frustrated they cannot meet people within their comfort zones, or they are unwilling to share their vulnerabilities with people who may easily be traced back to people they know.
So they date strangers online. Unlike traditional dating, online dating is a space where people have no direct connections, like mutual friends or work. The social links that existed in the tangible world no longer exist in the virtual world.
Researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria found that the rates of interracial marriage resulting from online dating go up when people are linked, not by race or ethnicity, but through random interests. They also found that interracial marriages increased rapidly starting in the early 2000s, around the exact time that online dating surged in popularity. It appeared that the lens of online dating gave people a new opportunity to “see” other people for things other than skin color such as their passions, what they valued, or how they articulated their beliefs.
But data also shows that some groups like Asian men are often overlooked in the realm of online data, according to the Washington Post. In fact, compared with black, white, and Latino men, Asian men get fewer unsolicited messages from women. Similarly, data shows that blacks, especially black women, are at the greatest disadvantage on online dating sites compared to others.
These findings are generally supported in the cross-cultural mindset. That is, we have found that people tend to be connected by values and beliefs rather than by skin color or ethnic makeup. This new way of marketing therefore targets by what people share, which is much richer territory than what they look like.
And, likewise, good marriages survive when they go below the surface too. Indeed, about 11 million people in the U.S. are in interracial marriages, according to Pew. In fact, 17 percent of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, which is a more than fivefold increase since 1967, the year the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Loving v. Virginia, a landmark case that made interracial marriage legal. Clearly, the power of love and friendship and community coalesces when we see one another for who we are opposed to what we think we see in the mirror.
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