Where We Meet Our Mates

Douthat notes that fewer and fewer Americans are marrying fellow churchgoers or neighbors. More and more are meeting online:

[T]he data on unions formed online looks pretty encouraging, and it’s possible that the internet is helping to compensate for the eclipse of other forms of community, rather than contributing directly to those other forms’ eclipse.

But it seems fair to assume that there are still a lot of people who would prefer to meet their future spouse the old fashioned way — through initial flesh-and-blood encounters embedded in a larger pre-existing social network. If that’s your preference, the university campus is one of the few flesh-and-blood arenas that seems to be holding its own as a place to form lasting attachments.

Millman expands on the possible social consequences of widespread online dating:

The hidden costs of internet dating aren’t some much to the romantic “market” as to the rest of society. How many young people don’t go to church or synagogue because there’s no reason to go there to meet marital prospects? And once that dynamic starts, it inevitably accelerates, as the residual group who does show up is increasingly untenable romantically (because they are there for other reasons – or can’t find an “adequate” mate digitally). Then there’s the problem that if you meet someone digitally, you’re probably meeting someone with a distinct social circle – as opposed to someone from within your own social world. That’s good if the relationship doesn’t work out – less risk of collateral damage. But it creates complications if the relationship results in marriage, as now you have two circles to navigate that don’t overlap well. That happens plenty if you meet in meatspace, of course, but it’s much more certain to happen if you meet digitally than if you meet, say, at church.