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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?We see this in consumer goods — if there are too many flavors of jam at the store, for instance, you might feel that it’s just too complicated to consider the jam aisle, you might end up skipping it all together, you might decide it's not worth settling down with one jam. I don’t think that that theory, even if it’s true for something like jam, applies to dating.I actually don’t see in my data any negative repercussions for people who meet partners online.(For gay couples, it's more like two out of every three).The apps have been surprisingly successful -- and in ways many people would not expect.This environment, mind you, is just like the one we see in the offline world.

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

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.

People used to marry in their early 20s, which meant that most dating that was done, or most courting that was done, was done with the intention of settling down right away.

And that’s not the life that young people lead anymore.

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bar minding my own business when the woman next to me did something strange.

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