Geeks get more girlfriends, says survey

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Internet access gets you laid, according to sociologists, who say it increases the chances of being in a romantic relationship.

Of course, it's possible the finding could simply reflect the number of people hiding away from their other half by pretending to be doing something useful.

But, if not, it refutes the idea that an interest in technology automatically condemns people to a life of solo pleasures.

The American Sociological Association survey found that 82 percent of participants who had internet access at home also had a spouse or romantic partner, compared just 63 percent of those who didn't.

Indeed, the authors suggest, the internet could soon become the most common way of meeting a spouse.

"Although prior research on the social impacts of internet use has been rather ambiguous about the social cost of time spent online, our research suggests that internet access has an important role to play in helping Americans find mates," says lead author Michael J Rosenfeld of Stanford University.

The study found that the internet is the only social arena that is unambiguously becoming more important as a place for couples to meet.

"It is possible that in the next several years the internet could eclipse friends as the most influential way Americans meet their romantic partners, displacing friends out of the top position for the first time since the early 1940s," Rosenfeld said.

Of course, unfussy heterosexuals like you and me can continue to find our soulmates through the time-honored tradition of getting paralytically drunk in a poorly-lit bar.

But the internet, says Rosenfeld, is particularly important for groups where potential partners are few or hard to identify, such as gay and lesbian people and the middle-aged.

Among couples who met within two years of the survey last winter, 61 percent of same-sex couples and 21.5 percent of heterosexual couples met online.

"Couples who meet online are much more likely to be same-sex couples, and somewhat more likely to be from different religious backgrounds," Rosenfeld said.

"The internet is not simply a new and more efficient way to keep in touch with our existing networks; rather the internet is a new kind of social intermediary that may reshape the kinds of partners and relationships we have."