Newswise — Michele Adams is working on two studies about contemporary dating. One study is about "speed dating;" the other examines online personal ads.
"Match.com makes finding love easy," reads the copy found on one of the Internet's most popular matchmaking sites, which uses a high-powered search engine and a databank of hundreds of thousands of participants to produce a match made in cyberspace.
Looking for love with just the right browser is probably better than looking for love in all the wrong places, and while online dating, speed dating and other modern matchmaking techniques may seem less romantic than the arrows from Cupid's quiver, it is a sign of the times, says Michele Adams, assistant professor of sociology at Tulane University.
"I am interested in how dating has changed over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st century and how that reflects women getting more economic independence and more independence from having to get married," says Adams.
Adams, who tracks how mating and gender issues intersect with popular culture, is currently working on two studies that follow contemporary dating trends.
In one project that she began last year, 30 Tulane graduate students participated in an evening of "speed dating" in which each student was able to spend five minutes getting to know each member of the opposite sex. Students then completed ballots indicating who they would choose to date or with whom they'd rather simply be friends.
Unlike typical speed-dating events, participants in Adams' project were then interviewed about their experience and the choices they made. While some of that data was lost to Hurricane Katrina, Adams says she has enough material to analyze and complete the study by year's end. In a bit of romantic lagniappe, two of the participants in the study are still dating and talking about marriage, says Adams.
Another ongoing project is one that Adams is conducting with a colleague at another university. By studying more than 10,000 personal advertisements of people looking for relationships through Match.com, Adams hopes to analyze the dating market by examining the demographic information supplied in the ads. "We can look at gender, age, race and what types of people others are looking for," she says.
What Adams hopes to collect from these projects is information that can help her follow the "trajectory of women" over time as women have become more independent from marriage. The dating market, she says, has become "rationalized," meaning faster, more predictable and not as relaxed as more traditional forms of dating. "'Courting' is an old-fashioned term," she says.
Both men and women are affected by the fact that it is becoming more common for them to stay in school longer, pursuing graduate and professional degrees. People are less likely now to find a long-term mate in high school or during their undergraduate years.
"You get out of school at 30 and it is hard to get back into the dating market," she says. "The pace has picked up. Life is moving fast."