Researchers from the University of Chicago found that more than a third of U.S. marriages between 2005 and 2012 started online—and that online couples have longer, happier marriages. The study of more than 19,000 participants, published in 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the “relationship quality” of partners who meet online may be higher—and the rate of separation or divorce lower—than for partners who meet offline.
According to the study, the rate of marital breakups for respondents who met their spouse online was 25% lower than for those who met offline. The researchers suggested that a greater pool of potential spouses might give users more options and allow them to be more selective.
They also found that more anonymous online communications produced greater self-disclosure—and stronger feelings of affection—than face-to face communications, laying the foundation for more enduring relationships. A 2011 paper published in the journal Communication Research reached a similar conclusion. In a study of 85 participants conducted by researchers at Cornell University, opposite-sex participants were assigned to a face-to-face exchange, an online exchange with the addition of a webcam, or a text-only exchange. Researchers found that the text-only couples made more statements of affection than either of the other groups and were more comfortable sharing intimate information.