Unfortunately for Ryan Gosling fans everywhere, dates are no longer negotiated while one party hangs from a ferris wheel (unless it’s with iPhone in hand). Instead, it’s much more common for relationships to ignite on the digital circuit than to spark in person. As Spike Jonze’s recent Oscar-nominated film, ‘Her’ points out in extreme hyperbole, technology has changed the face of the modern relationship, crossing distances as well as creating them, and there is no better testament to that than the overwhelming and widespread success of relationships that get their start online.
According to a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, over 1/3 of married couples in 2013 admitted to having found their spouses online. Of that third of marriages that have resulted from online dating, the study states that only half of that number was sourced from sites committed exclusively to online dating, suggesting that approximately 17% of marriages in 2013 are the results of relationships formed via online venues not tailored specifically for dating purposes. Online Dating Magazine reports that there are currently 5,000 plus online pairing services in operation worldwide, and while the big names in online dating such as eHarmony, Match.com, and okCupid advertise their matching systems and cite high success rates, they are unable to corner the market on providing online connections, since coupling online is no longer so rare or difficult to achieve by mere chance and social interaction. As society retreats further into a virtual culture, couples are now meeting organically on the internet, via services not intended to match romantic partners, more often than ever before.
Photographer Jena Cumbo explores the rapidly growing trend of couples who happen to meet online as opposed to the now well-clichéd bar or bookstore in her photo series, “We Met On The Internet,” providing the perfect look into the many different types of people who find their partners while cruising the net, and the wide range of social media outlets that provide that facilitate the option to naturally find love in a virtual landscape.
Let’s take a look at some of most popular social media sites that have led users to love without requiring matching algorithms or dating profile subscriptions.
How Many Users? Over 1,310,000,000
How Do People Connect? Public Messaging (the Wall), Private Messaging/Chat, “Poking”, Liking.
Though rumored to be losing favor with younger generations, Facebook remains the king of social media among adults. With a format that encourages connections and showcases mutual interests, it is no wonder Facebook has instigated many an online love affair. Couples that have shared their Facebook love stories with the press have indicated that their relationships tend to start with casual interactions: likes, pokes, and relevant comments. Married couple Kendra Cowser and Sean O'Brien shared their love story with TheKnot.com. It all began with Kendra's photo popping up on Sean's 'People You Might Know' list, piquing his curiosity enough to reach out to her through a friend request. Another couple, Rain and Nelson, captured above by Jena Cumbo, struck up a chat after breaking the ice with Facebook’s ‘poke’ button and told ABC News that their relationship blossomed from online flirting into a comfortable, in-person partnership revolving around movie marathons and dinning out.
6 Meet Me
How Many Users? Over 90,000,000
How Do People Connect? Private Messaging/Chat, Games
The game-based social network MeetMe.com is designed to allow users to chat and get to know each other over online arcade games, a business model which has also seen success for companies like Yahoo. Meet Me encourages users to chat while playing, which resulted in a platonic friendship between Cumbo’s subjects above, Patrick and Ember, who fell in love after meeting at a party in real life sometime after connecting online. “There was an immediate connection when we first met,” the pair informed Featureshoot.com last year. In fact, Meet Me had enough lovers connecting that it launched its own online dating app, Charm, last year, in addition to maintaining its regular platform.
How Many Users? Over 168,400,000
How Do People Connect? Reblogging, Private Messaging, Favoriting
An online blogging site particularly popular among teens and twenty-somethings, Tumblr allows users to find and follow others based on interests and similar tags. Members can communicate via private messages or responses to their posts, and can provide their personal contact details on their blog page. Tumblr users tend to share a lot of personal and creative posts, which adds to the intimacy that can grow between members before ever meeting in person. Cumbo’s photo depicts Marissa and Danielle, who fell in love on Tumblr before meeting in real life. Tumblr users seem to have a special place in their hearts for couples who met online - couple Laith and Christina, who met on Tumblr in 2011, became celebrities on the blogging site, and created a mini-meltdown for users when they broke up in 2013. Tumblr also facilitates a write in blog for couples who met online to share their experiences: We Met Online.
How Many Users? Over 200,000,000
How Do People Connect? Commenting, Liking, Direct Messaging
With over 200 million users, Instagram has been gained a lot of popularity since launching in 2010. Now available for iOS, Android, and tablet devices, the app allows users to snap photos and filter, or share photos pulled from the internet, offering followers a visual slice of the user’s daily life and interests. Cumbo photographed Nikki and Malliha, who caught each other’s eyes on the picture sharing site before a spontaneous encounter at an event brought them together. Nikki and Malliha aren't the only ones to experience that a picture is worth a thousand inbox messages; TheKnot.com tells readers about Robin Coe, who made an international move to marry Matthew Fleming last May after the two connected on Instagram. Meanwhile, according to The Daily Mail, Texan Denis Lafargue and Oregon native Elizabeth Wisdom shared a photo of Denis's proposal on Instagram to announce their engagement after the couple found each other on Instagram in 2012. Instagram recently introduced a private messaging system, which allows users to develop relationships with more ease. Between Instagram's popularity and new facilities, couples thanking the site for their connection are likely to be on the rise in the next few years.
How Many Users? Over 36,000,000
How Do People Connect: Private Messaging, Public Messaging
MySpace is an older method of connecting its users socially and romantically. Launched over a decade ago, the site has fallen out of trend in recent years, standing with a mere 36 million users in comparison to Facebook’s number in the billions, but still maintains a consistent user-base and allows members to browse other profiles based on interests and mutual friends. The site recently underwent a makeover to focus more on multimedia sharing. Cumbo’s photo essay features several couples who have MySpace to thank for their partnership; pictured above are Catherine and David, who began chatting after sharing a similar experience with weight-loss, and their mutual understanding turned to love. Bryn and Mike, featured at the top of this page, met on Myspace in 2006 and have been together ever since. Bryn told ABC that a "hilarious" picture of Mike caught her attention and led her to connect with him.
How Many Users? Over 30,000 immediately available at any given time
How Do People Connect? Users are randomly paired with anonymous chat partners.
Omegle, a site similar to Chat Roulette minus the video capacity, randomly connecting anonymous users online to chat. The site is more popular for trolling and virtual sex than sparking loving, long-term relationships, but because it does offer people the opportunity to combat loneliness without feeling susceptible to judgment, it’s understandable that some lucky people have been able to really connect. According to a number of threads on Reddit, finding a significant other on Omegle may seem statistically unlikely, but is a definite possibility for those looking to connect. While those who shared their stories on Reddit contributed anonymously (maybe in keeping with their online social outlet of choice), all expressed surprise and gratitude that a moment of boredom or lonliess led them to connect with a random stranger who ended up, by some miracle, becoming the love of their life. Katie and Edison, photographed above by Cumbo, were one of those lucky random pairings, and are now living together in New York.
How May Users? Over 645,750,000
How Do People Connect? Retweeting, Replying, Direct Messaging
Cumbo’s photo series didn’t include any relationships that got their start on Twitter, but it’s still a trending topic among users of the popular status-based site. Many Twitter users have shared stories of finding their loved ones on the site, including two vastly different married couples who shared their stories with TheKnot.com following their weddings. In both cases, the couples met through searching users with similar interests in sports and TV shows respectively. Even celebrities are jumping on the social media meet-cute bandwagon via Twitter in particular. The rapper 2SHOTZ met his wife of 1 year on Twitter, so did the popular couple Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa, while singer and actress Ariana Grande and YouTube star Jai Brook’s on-again-off-again was first on thanks to the two’s connection on Twitter. perhaps Grande and Brook’s rocky relationship (recently immortalized in Grande’s song, “Problems”), suggests that communicating via a maximum of 140 characters is not ideal for forming a lasting bond.