Once upon a time, internet dating was a vaguely embarrassing pursuit. Who wanted to be one of those lonely hearts trolling the singles bars of cyberspace? These days, however, the New York Times Vows section—famous for its meet-cute stories of the blissfully betrothed—is full of couples who trumpet the love they found through Ok Cupid or Tinder. Today an estimated one-third of marrying couples in the U.S. met online, and as many as 15 percent of American adults have used dating sites or apps. (Even Martha Stewart, who in 2013 declared in her Match profile that she was looking for a “lover of animals, grandchildren, and the outdoors.” Martha, have you considered Raya, the private celebrity dating app?)
Locking eyes across a crowded room might make for a lovely song lyric, but when it comes to romantic potential, nothing rivals technology, according to Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, and chief scientific adviser to Match. “It’s more possible to find someone now than at probably any other time in history, particularly if you’re older. You don’t have to stand in a bar and wait for the right one to come along,” says Fisher. “And we’ve found that people looking for a sweetheart on the internet are more likely to have full-time employment and higher education, and to be seeking a long-term partner. Online dating is the way to go—you just have to learn to work the system.”
So take heart: Whether you’re a first-time player or a seasoned contestant who wants to up her game, our troubleshooting guide is here to help, with advice from both experts and survivors on how to search strategically, handle setbacks gracefully, maintain sanity, and enjoy the ride—with minimal agony and maximum ecstasy. Your eligible bachelor awaits!