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Instead of interacting with the people around her, she chose to search for a companion elsewhere online.

I wondered to myself, is this what online dating has done to us?

This environment, mind you, is just like the one we see in the offline world.

There’s no obvious pattern by which people who meet online are worse off. For people who have a hard time finding partners in their day-to-day, face-to-face life, the larger subset of potential partners online is a big advantage for them.

But the fear that online dating is changing us, collectively, that it's creating unhealthy habits and preferences that aren't in our best interests, is being driven more by paranoia than it is by actual facts.

"There are a lot of theories out there about how online dating is bad for us," Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Stanford who has been conducting a long-running study of online dating, told me the other day.

For folks who are meeting people everyday—really younger people in their early twenties—online dating is relevant, but it really becomes a powerful force for people in thin dating markets.

I spoke with Rosenfeld to hear more about his research, to learn about the ways in which the rise of online dating is defining modern love, and to talk about the biggest misconceptions people have about online dating.

It’s harder to feel alone when you’re 23, because everyone is a potential partner.

But when you get to 40, most people your age are already settled down.

"And mostly they're pretty unfounded." Rosenfeld, who has been keeping tabs on the dating lives of more than 3,000 people, has gleaned many insights about the growing role of apps like Tinder.

They are important today — roughly one of every four straight couples now meet on the Internet.

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It makes it easier for someone who is looking for something very specific in a partner to find what they are looking for.

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