How did your parents meet? In the past, familiar answers included: at work, the pub, university or through a friend or family member.
But in fewer than 20 years the most common answer will be ‘online’, according to the first Future of Dating report from Monash University and eharmony released this week (27 January).
Using a nationally representative survey of over 2,000 Australians and projections from current trends, researchers pinpoint 2038 as the year more babies – dubbed ‘ebabies’ – will be born to parents who met online than face-to-face.
By 2030, at least one in three Australian newborns will be ebabies, and already an estimated 20% of babies born in this millennium are the offspring of couples who met through the web.
Researchers say this is remarkable considering just a decade ago, stigma surrounding online dating meant few couples confessed to meeting on the internet – a way of socialising that only took off in earnest at the turn of the millennium.
The new report says the local pub was a popular place to search for romance in the early 1980s, when one in five couples met at the watering hole – these days just 6% do so.
Today, online dating is the most popular way for solo Australians to meet a significant other, with almost one-third (29.4%) of research participants reporting they met their partner online in the past five years.
During the same period, 17% met via a mutual friend and 16% met at work.
Online dating profiles allow users to reveal their values, interests and personality before striking up a conversation or setting up a date.
In a testament to its practicality, almost 50% of Australians agree that the digital world makes it easier to find someone compatible.
Two-thirds agree online dating has become more normalised, and one in two say the internet makes it easier for introverts to find love.
Eharmony relationship expert Sharon Draper says the pandemic may increase the dominance of online dating.
“Online dating is ever more prevalent, particularly since the challenges we’ve seen recently via the COVID-19 virus, and its restraints upon normal socialising,” she says.
She recommends anyone new to online dating who is looking for a serious relationship to think carefully about the type of person they want to attract.
“Avoid endless cycles of casual dating by looking for a person who shares your values, personality traits and, most importantly, your goals.”
The Monash research suggests online dating allows singles to seek out family inclined partners, given couples who met online between 2014-2020 had 2.3% more babies than those who met in person.
Further, the report reveals that 21% of online couples who had a baby did so within a year of meeting.
Irrespective of how they find one another, future parents in the ACT are having children later than in any other state or territory.
The median age for ACT mothers is 32.2 years and 34.1 years for fathers, according to 2019 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The ACCC and Scamwatch offer advice to avoid becoming the victim of a romance scam when dating online.