When online dating became the way to meet people a decade or so ago, I was safely married — but weirdly, I felt like I was missing out on something. It seemed like fun, if a bit overwhelming, to shop for dates the way I might hunt for boots at Zappos.com.
Single friends and colleagues were meeting interesting people left and right and striking up passionate romances with people they’d met online. And when dates didn’t work out, they'd tell hilarious stories about the debacle. This was a world I would never get to experience.
Five years ago I got divorced, and the gates to that digital-dating domain — more massive and confusing than ever — finally opened up for me. In those intervening years, online dating became my generation’s preferred way of meeting potential mates, according to a survey commissioned by eHarmony.com. And other research shows that people over 50 are joining online dating sites at twice the rate of other age groups.
At one popular site, HowAboutWe.com, boomer traffic grew by 173 percent last year, and two of the stalwarts, Match.com and eHarmony.com, also report that boomers are their fastest-growing demographic. And we’re not just dating. According to Time magazine, 1 in 4 boomer marriages are the result of online dating. Online dating is big business. The $1.9 billion industry is the Internet’s third-largest revenue producer — making more money than porn. The dating services are well aware of the data: 30 percent of (the 80 million) boomers are single, and we comprise 20 percent of the online dating community. No surprise, then, that Internet advertising is fat with ads for 50+ dating sites.
Another factor fueling this online dating trend: Newly single midlifers don’t feel like there are many options for meeting other singles. We don’t generally hang out in bars, our friends don’t throw parties every weekend (and the ones we go to seem populated with couples). Our flirting skills are rusty to nonexistent, some of us are still too preoccupied with work or kids to go out, and when do we go out, unless it's specifically an event for "mature" folks, everyone is 27.
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