A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bar minding my own business when the woman next to me did something strange.Surrounded by potential partners, she pulled out her phone, hid it coyly beneath the counter, and opened the online dating app Tinder.On her screen, images of men appeared and then disappeared to the left and right, depending on the direction in which she wiped.I felt a deep sense a rejection -- not personally, but on behalf of everyone at the bar.
"There are a lot of theories out there about how online dating is bad for us," Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Stanford who has been conducting a long-running study of online dating, told me the other day."And mostly they're pretty unfounded." Rosenfeld, who has been keeping tabs on the dating lives of more than 3,000 people, has gleaned many insights about the growing role of apps like Tinder.They are important today — roughly one of every four straight couples now meet on the Internet.(For gay couples, it's more like two out of every three).The apps have been surprisingly successful -- and in ways many people would not expect.In fact, by several measures, online dating has proved even more useful — both to individuals and society — than the traditional avenues it has replaced.I spoke with Rosenfeld to hear more about his research, to learn about the ways in which the rise of online dating is defining modern love, and to talk about the biggest misconceptions people have about online dating.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.You have one of the most unique data sets about modern romance. Well, one of the first things you have to know to understand how dating — or really courtship rituals, since not everyone calls it dating — has changed over time is that the age of marriage in the United States has increased dramatically over time.People used to marry in their early 20s, which meant that most dating that was done, or most courting that was done, was done with the intention of settling down right away.And that’s not the life that young people lead anymore.