Over the past decade, the general perception of modern courtship has centered on the idea that we’ve entered a new social landscape: one in which dating is on the decline and the era of the “traditional date” is dead.
Interestingly, over this period online dating has burgeoned into a $2 billion1 industry with more than 2,5002 online dating sites in the U.S. alone (and more than 5,000 worldwide). This massive growth demonstrates that singles in America want to go on dates and meet new people. Clearly, there’s a discrepancy between what we believe are the current dating norms and how people are actually dating.
To shed some light, we took an in-depth look at this subject and identified that the date is – in fact – very much alive and well. People are interested and engaged in dating; they’re staying single longer, meeting more people (via technological and social advances), getting offline and going on more first dates, which is crucial to building successful relationships.
While author Jessica Massa, of The Gaggle: How to Find Love in the Post-Dating World, writes, “traditional dating as we know it is dead.” However, dates (in particular, first dates) set the tone for creating successful romantic connections.
Navigating the first-date landscape has dramatically changed with the rise of online dating sites. In the U.S. alone, there are 54 million people who are single, and of those singles nearly three out of four (74 percent)3 have tried online dating. No longer are singles just haunting bars or agreeing to blind dates to find that special someone; they’re increasingly making romantic connections online and going on first dates with new people.
In this report, we closely looks at the importance of the first date in building relationships. After analyzing industry trends, surveys and statistics this report examines the realities and myths about dating, proving three main hypotheses related to the first date and the overall state of dating which is laid out in each section below.
People Are Going On More First Dates
A recent New York Times article titled, “The End of Courtship,” 4 examined the state of dating and questioned whether or not formal dates are becoming obsolete with the rise of casual meet-ups and the ever growing “hookup culture” among millennials. However, according to HowAboutWe internal data, dating is as popular as ever.
Providing a platform where members suggest first date ideas, HowAboutWe has experienced 100 percent year-over-year growth since launching HowAboutWe Dating in 2010. In fact, each month HowAboutWe members across the nation post more than 100,000 date ideas – anything from “How about we… swap travel stories over sangria,” to “How about we…go treasure hunting at the flea market,” underscoring that dating is not dead, and that people are interested in connecting through in-person meetings and going on dates.
“By using the date as a starting point, HowAboutWe has taken the focus away from drawn-out online interactions, and encourages people to meet face to face by going on unique, fun first dates,” said Jessica Tom, Community Director, HowAboutWe. “And it works! Each and every one of our success stories started with a date, ranging from unique museum tours to outdoor picnics and everything in between.”
To discover exactly how interested singles are in going on first dates, HowAboutWe conducted a user poll in which more than half (55 percent)5 of Dating members between the ages of 18-49 reported that they go on an average of three first dates in their initial month of joining – that’s nearly one date per week! What’s more, month-over-month this number remained consistent throughout the lifetime of a membership, providing users with a steady drumbeat of first date experiences.
A recent national survey also found that many Americans feel that they’re dating more now than in years past.
With more than 2.5 million date ideas posted since inception, HowAboutWe identified a few additional key insights7 as to how Dating members are behaving across the country:
Top 5 cities with the highest ratio of dates posted per person:
• Los Angeles
• New York City
• Washington, D.C.
Top 3 most popular date categories:
• Eat & Drink (includes foodie dates, coffee dates, alcohol dates)
• Listen/Watch (catching a live concert, exhibit or play, cultural dates)
• Play (active dates, like playing a sport or game, or going dancing)
Most popular day of the week to post dates:
Most popular time of day to post dates
• Early afternoon (12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.)
People Are Getting Offline And On That First Date Faster
On many traditional online dating sites, one of the biggest issues for users is getting stuck in a never-ending cycle of profile vetting and online communication, which means getting offline and on that first date can take weeks or more. This is a significant roadblock, since meeting in person is the most effective way to determine romantic compatibility.8
“When it comes to love, our senses give us flawless feedback. We’re charmed by the sound of his laugh, or we’re not,” said Simone Kornfeld, LMSW Psychotherapist and HowAboutWe Contributor. “We’re excited by the smell of her just-washed hair, or we’re not. Put simply, a profile, an email or even a phone conversation can provide a glimpse of what someone’s like, but they can never paint the full picture – this can only happen in person.”
A national survey of singles confirmed how long people are waiting to meet in-person, with 50 percent9 of those who have used online dating sites reporting that once an online connection was made, it took a minimum of three weeks to get offline and on that first date.
HowAboutWe solved the waiting game by creating a platform dedicated to getting people offline faster and on that first date. Through a poll of their Dating users, HowAboutWe discovered that their members take significantly less time than the national average to get offline and on that first date once a connection is made.
Once a connection is made on HowAboutWe, one in four people are going on first dates in one week or less, with more than 70 percent of users going on first dates in less than three weeks.11
Going On More Dates Leads To Lasting Relationships
Throughout the past decade, the U.S. has seen a fundamental cultural shift that has affected social behavior related to dating and relationships. Reports demonstrate that there has been a slow, but steady change as to when singles are choosing to settle down and tie the knot. From 2000-201012, the median age of first marriages in the U.S. has increased from 26.8 years to 28.2 among men and from 25.1 years to 26.1 among women.
This additional 1-2 years of singlehood has provided an opportunity for unmarried Americans to meet more people and experience more dates prior to getting married than they were in previous years.
Interestingly, divorce rates have also shifted during this same timeframe, steadily decreasing as the age of first marriages and the number of dates single people are experiencing increases.
*Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Provisional number of divorces and annulments and rate: United States, 2000-201113
What can be inferred is that there is a connection between decreasing divorce rates and people staying single longer and having more life experiences before settling down.
With so many singles using online dating sites as a resource to meet new people and experience new things, it’s no surprise that recent research shows that more than one-third (35 percent) of marriages in America now begin online14. Even more, marriages with online origins are also slightly less likely to result in separation or divorce, tying directly to the slowly decreasing divorce rate and the increased number of happy marriages that result from online connections.
“As research shows, men and women are waiting longer to marry, spending most of early adulthood uncommitted. These extra single years leave more time for individual self-development, and most importantly, more time for dating,” added Kornfeld. “Through meeting and interacting with an array of people, we begin to discern the attributes, values and characteristics that reflect our preferences. And with each new dating experience, we become better at spotting the kind of person that will provide the qualities we need in order to sustain long-term intimacy.”
Understanding the importance of the first date and the current dating landscape is critical to how singles today are building happy and successful relationships. Throughout this report, we’ve identified how:
• Singles are dating more than ever
• Singles are getting offline and on first dates faster
• More dates lead to more successful, lasting relationships
Across the nation, people are continuing to date and fall in love; however, the way they’re connecting with potential partners has significantly changed. Online dating has entered the realm of mainstream romantic introductions and with dating destinations like HowAboutWe helping more and more singles get offline and on more first dates, this trend shows no signs of shifting as technology continues to evolve.
“Rapid technological innovations have drastically expanded the number of people we’re able to meet and connect with, keeping our social lives humming with the mere push of a button,” concluded Tom. “Socially, we live in a society that’s more tolerant and accepting than ever before, giving us even more freedom to pursue the romantic lives we want. In an increasingly digital world full of unprecedented romantic opportunities, we need — now more than ever — tech products that intelligently and seamlessly enhance our real-world experiences.”
About Simone Kornfeld
Simone Kornfeld, LMSW, is a psychotherapist and co-author of enlightened dating guide, “Smitten: The Way of the Brilliant Flirt.” After graduating from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, Ms. Kornfeld began treating adults and adolescents suffering from a range of mental health issues. Since her interests and expertise lay in the areas of self-realization and relationships, she strives to help patients uncover deeper inner truths and create more meaningful unions.
1 “Dating Services in the US: Market Research Report” IBIS World database, March 2013, www.ibisworld.com (accessed September 3, 2013)
2 (March 22, 2013) How Many Online Dating Sites Are There? Online Dating Magazine. Retrieved September 3, 2013
3 (June 18, 2013) Online Dating Statistics, Statisticbrain.com. Retrieved August 14, 2013 from http://www.statisticbrain.com
4 Williams, A. (January 11, 2013) The End of Courtship? NYTimes.com. Retrieved August 26, 2013 from http://nytimes.com
5 SurveyMonkey Inc., HowAboutWe “Tell Us About Your Dating Life” Last visited: August 27, 2013
6 Redshift Research Ltd., First Dates National Survey (August 12, 2013)
7 HowAboutWe 100 Million Dates Infographic, January 2013: http://www.howaboutwe.com/onemilliondates
8 Eastwick, P. (February 2, 2012) Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. PsychologicalScience.org. Retrieved September 3, 2013 from http://www.psychologicalscience.org
9 Redshift Research Ltd., First Dates National Survey (August 12, 2013)
10 Redshift Research Ltd., First Dates National Survey (August 12, 2013)
11 SurveyMonkey Inc., HowAboutWe “Tell Us About Your Dating Life” Last visited: August 27, 2013
12 “Single Lifestyles – US” Mintel Reports database, February 2012, http://oxygen.mintel.com/display/590278/ (accessed August 21, 2013)
13 Center of Disease Control and Prevention, National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends. Retrieved on August 26, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm
14 “Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, June 2013. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/31/1222447110.abstract?sid=068730fb-abc6-4172-8898-4770018876 (accessed September 5, 2013)