Couples’ “how we met” stories are getting shorter

Three words: I swiped right.
Three words: I swiped right.
Image: Reuters/Mark Makela
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Ask a couple who’s been together for more than a decade how they met, and you’re likely to hear a winding explanation of whose college roommate was friends with the cousin who introduced them at a party.

Ask a new couple how they found one another, and the answer is probably a lot shorter: Match, Tinder, or any of the other dating sites that now bring nearly 40% of US couples together these days.

In a recent research paper, Michael Rosenfeld and Sonia Hausen of Stanford University and Reuben Thomas of the University of New Mexico reviewed data from a long-running study by the University of Michigan on how US couples meet. Among their findings was that it now takes people fewer words to tell the story of how they met. In 2009, the average respondent used 67 words to describe how they met their last partner; by 2017, they needed just 37.

The reason, most likely, is the rise of online dating. In 2009, only 22% of heterosexual couples in the US claimed to have met online, a share that rose to 39% in 2017. It’s harder, it seems, to spin a long-winded tale out of “I swiped right.”