Several years ago, when 32-year-old Catherine Langford heard the words "online dating," she thought, "Losers do this kind of thing." Today, the clinical psychologist has been dating her boyfriend, a pastor she met on eHarmony, for over 19 months.
The fact is that more and more of today's romantic relationships start online. A 2009 Stanford study found that 22 percent of heterosexual American couples who met between 2007 and 2009 met on the Internet. In April 2011 alone, 25 million unique users around the world accessed an online dating site, according to one industry report.
Evangelical couples are no exception. The dating site ChristianMingle saw three million new members in 2012. Sites for every possible Christian subgroup, from Sovereign Grace Singles to MennoMeet, have popped up like mushrooms.
While concerns about online dating do surface, many now view Internet dating as simply another venue in which to find a marriage partner. Sam Moorcroft, founder of ChristianCafe.com, likens online dating technology to roads. "Are roads good or bad? Roads allow you to get to someone's house to have an affair. But, the medium is actually amoral," he says.
Having studied the work of Marshall McLuhan (recall his aphorism, "The medium is the message") and that of other media ecologists, I wasn't so ready to concede this point. So I decided to do a little investigating myself with this question in mind: Does the online dating process—creating a profile, uploading pictures, searching for potential matches and/or being matched using an algorithm, and communicating via computer before meeting face-to-face— fundamentally change anything about how we relate to each other? Is it amoral?1