More people meeting online regardless of age, says expert

The latest census says there are approximately 14.3 million singles in Canada, and according to sociologist Sarah Knudson, more and more are dating online — regardless of age. Not only are more people using matchmaking services and apps, but the stigma attached to meeting partners online is diminishing.

Looking for love? Online or off it's possible, according to 2 love stories

Jane and Lloyd Coffin, married 65 years, read the paper together. Their secret to success is that their relationship started as a friendship. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The latest census says there are approximately 14.3 million singles in Canada, and according to sociologist Sarah Knudson, more and more are dating online — regardless of age.

"The biggest story in the past 15 years is that online dating is here and it's not just people in their twenties or thirties that are doing it. It's people in their forties fifties and beyond."

Knudson is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan campus who recently released a study called "A Good Match? Offline Matchmaking Services and Implications for Gender Relations."

Sarah Knudson is a sociologist who recently published a study on matchmaking services (CBC)

Not only are more people using matchmaking services and apps, but the stigma attached to meeting partners online is diminishing, which bodes well for the future of the industry.

"Less than one in five people feel like it has a stigma," said Knudson.

In small towns, or rural settings, where many find it difficult to meet someone new — Knudson calls them "thin markets"— many singles are logging online to find real-life love.

"If you've been divorced or separated or have kids, not everybody, whether it's fair or not, wants to meet you," said Knudson.

People looking for same-sex partners have a smaller pool of potential dates, something which may also be driving up the number of online daters.

Knudson said in sparsely populated provinces, such as Saskatchewan, it provides more opportunities.

But does it really work?

Here, mixed in with Knudson's best advice, are two love stories, and each couple's secrets to success, online or off.

Get a coach

For those who have been off the market for years — whether they've divorced, or come out of a long-term relationship —may be overwhelmed by all the options offered by apps and websites.

"A lot of people who turn to date coaches and matchmakers have been online daters," said Knudson.

"They're really frustrated by the time they put into the search and some of the disappointments when they find out people look awesome on paper online, but in person they might be very different."

A coach can talk you through building a profile and making the first move. Some even go on "pre-dates," to vet the potential partner for their clients.

Jane and Lloyd Coffin were married in 1951, after Lloyd asked Jane's father for her hand in marriage. Like a coach, her father counseled her to follow her instincts.

He asked Jane: "Do you love him?" 

She did, and they were married soon after.

Be honest

"The number one thing date coaches would say is have recent photos of yourself," said Knudson

"Be flattering but be honest."

Sixty-six years ago, Jane Coffin didn't have the option of using a filtered selfie. She met her husband, Lloyd, at a dance.

"We both went to a dance at the navy barracks and each had different partners. I recognized her right away," said Lloyd Coffin

"We started to dance. And we danced. And the people we were with were getting a little teed off."

"From then on we just continued as a friendship," said Jane.

...even about where you met

Linday Yip met her husband, Sean, on in 2005. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

In 2005, Linda Yip met her husband, Sean, on a dating website.

"Sean and I had to decide consciously to tell the truth," said Yip

"The more we told the truth, the more we realized it was the right decision, because you don't want to start a relationship on a lie."

Yip knew "from the very first date" she was interested in her future husband.

Still, her friends grilled him at brunch a few months into their relationship, suspicious of their online beginnings.

The stigma is shrinking, but for people in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond, there could be some perception of judgement.

Get offline, eventually

"As far as meeting online, yes and get to know each other after that," said Jane Coffin.

"I certainly don't look down on anybody, but just for myself, I think you should get to know each other."

Just as Jane and Lloyd Coffin's romance started as a friendship, Knudson says you must meet your new flame in person to really get to know them or have a good chance at long-term happiness.

"Something like five per cent of people say they married someone they met online, which is not insignificant but at the same time you can never predict or account for chemistry."

An in-person meeting can sometimes tell you more about someone than weeks of chatting online or by text message.

When meeting a potential love match, though, safety is paramount.

"My rules were: always meet in a public place, tell your friends when you're going and when you're expected to be back, and carry your phone with you," said Linda Yip.

Be realistic

The Coffins started their relationship waltzing, and still love to dance, 66 years later. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Websites that charge a fee for use claim to be more effective than those that are free.

Still, it's not magic.

"A lot of people, whatever method they're using to meet a life partner or someone to date casually, might think they're one and done but it can take time," said Knudson.

Linda Yip's date with the man who would be her husband was the third in a string of under whelming offline meetings.

Even Jane and Lloyd Coffin have to compromise from time to time.

"You've got to learn to adjust to each other and accept what the other person is," said Jane.

About the Author

Bridget Yard


Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.

with files from Saskatoon Morning