Online dating has become a widespread feature of modern social life. In less than two decades, seeking partners through commercial intermediaries went from being a marginal and stigmatized practice to a common activity. How can we explain this rapid change? And what does it tell us about the changing nature of love and intimacy?
In contrast to those who praise online dating as the democratization of love and those who condemn it as the commodification of intimacy, this book tells a different story about how and why online dating became big. The key to understanding the growing prevalence of online dating lies in what Marie Bergström calls “the privatization of intimacy.” Online dating takes courtship from the public to the private sphere, and makes it a domestic and individual practice. Unlike courtship in traditional meeting venues, such as school, work and gatherings of family and friends, online dating makes a clear distinction between social and sexual sociability, and makes dating much more discrete. Apparently banal, this privatizing feature is fundamental for understanding both the success and the nature of digital matchmaking. It also sheds light on a broader social transformation: that of an increasingly private social life where interactions move indoors, narrow down to small circles and rely primarily on elective affinities.
Drawing on a wide range of empirical material from interviews, national surveys and dating platforms, this book challenges what we think we know about online dating and gives us a new understanding of who, why and how people go online to seek sex and love.