Overall, one-third (34%) of online Americans agree it’s possible to have a romantic relationship with someone on the internet, according to [pdf] a new study from Euro RSCG Worldwide. However, data from “Love (and Sex) in the Age of Social Media” indicates there is a big difference between men and women (41% compared to 28%), which the study says indicates that more women than men need a physical connection to make romance work for them.
There’s a clear generational difference, too; the younger the cohort, the more of them see online romantic relationships as possible. The percentage agreeing with the statement peak at 46% for Gen Y and hit a low of 21% among Matures (aged 65 and older).
Online Relationships Seen as Normal
Overall, half the sample (50%) knows somebody whose relationship started with online interactions, and more than half (53%) think online dating has become normal/mainstream. A clear generational gradient exists, as well: The younger the cohort, the more the agreement. Impressive proportions of Boomers (43%) and Matures (26%) know somebody whose relationship started with online interactions.
Online Relationships Common
A solid 22% of men and 12% of women say they have had a romantic, sexual or erotic relationship online, along with about 32% of Prosumers (highly active online consumers). As might be expected, Gen Y (24%) has a much higher rate of online relationships than Matures (7%). Interestingly, 12% of married respondents admit to an online relationship (see “Online Cheating Risk Seen as High,” below).
SocNet Sites Seen Most Promising for Love
The specialist sites and media each have their fans as places with a good chance of leading to a relationship, but top of them all are general social networking sites such as Facebook. These sites are by far the most promising for the youngest cohort of Gen Y (40%) and for Prosumers (52%).
Prosumers consistently rated all the different channels higher than other groups, but the margin is particularly wide for general social networking sites. Men rated every channel significantly higher than women; it seems that, across the board, men are more optimistic than women about their prospects with online matchmaking and dating.
Online Cheating Risk Seen as High
More than half of Americans of all conditions think the internet has made it easier for people to cheat on their partners. Even among the Matures, more than half (55%) agree that the Internet has made cheating easier.
A strikingly high proportion of the overall sample (31%) knows somebody whose relationship ended because of their actions online. The impact has been observed most by the youngest cohort (49%) but even 8% of Matures know someone in this situation.
Top Dating Site Visitors Flat, Visits Up
From October 2008, when the top 312 dating/relationship networking sites attracted 40.1 million unique visitors, to October 2010, when they drew 40.2 million, the total number of unique visitors has remained relatively flat, with some monthly fluctuations, according to CompetePRO.
However, several other metrics indicate that the same amount of unique visitors are using these sites more frequently and for longer periods of time. For example, dating/relationship networking sites had 334.3 million visits in October 2008, but 377.5 million in October 2010, a 13% increase.
Similarly, monthly page views totaled 6.7 billion in October 2008 but 8.8 billion in October 2010, a roughly 31% increase. The increase in total time spent, from 4.5 billion minutes to 4.8 billion minutes, was a smaller but still significant 7%.
About the Data: An online survey of 1,000 Americans online was carried out for Euro RSCG in January 2011.