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You could say online dating is simply changing people’s ideas about whether commitment itself is a life value.” Mate scarcity also plays an important role in people’s relationship decisions.

“Look, if I lived in Iowa, I’d be married with four children by now,” says Blatt, a 40‑something bachelor in Manhattan. People always said that the need for stability would keep commitment alive.

Whatever the flaws in their relationship, he told himself, being with her was better than being single in Portland again. Now in his early 30s, Jacob felt he had no idea how to make a relationship work. Would permanence simply happen, or would he have to choose it? All of a sudden I was going out with one or two very pretty, ambitious women a week. They dated for a few months, and then she moved in.

Around this time, he signed up for two online dating sites: Match.com, a paid site, because he’d seen the TV ads; and Plenty of Fish, a free site he’d heard about around town. At first I just thought it was some kind of weird lucky streak.” After six weeks, Jacob met a 22-year-old named Rachel, whose youth and good looks he says reinvigorated him. (Both names have been changed for anonymity.) Rachel didn’t mind Jacob’s sports addiction, and enjoyed going to concerts with him. She was from a blue-collar military background; he came from doctors.

He’d been called lazy, aimless, and irresponsible with money.

Having lived in New York and the Boston area, he was accustomed to ready-made social scenes.

In Portland, by contrast, most of his friends were in long-term relationships with people they’d met in college, and were contemplating marriage.

“That’s just how it is.” Another online-dating exec hypothesized an inverse correlation between commitment and the efficiency of technology. But that thinking was based on a world in which you didn’t meet that many people.” “Societal values always lose out,” says Noel Biderman, the founder of Ashley Madison, which calls itself “the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters”—that is, cheating.

“I think divorce rates will increase as life in general becomes more real-time,” says Niccolò Formai, the head of social-media marketing at Badoo, a meeting-and-dating app with about 25 million active users worldwide. It’s exhilarating to connect with new people, not to mention beneficial for reasons having nothing to do with romance. “Premarital sex used to be taboo,” explains Biderman.

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