It may seem like the way we date is dictated by things like love and affection but it’s actually driven by something far less romantic: the economy. Dating as we know it didn’t really start until the Industrial Revolution when young people left farms and small towns to flock to cities for work. They got jobs in factories, bars, and restaurants and being away from their families for the first time offered them the freedom to mix and match with other young people.

With the interconnectedness of our modern world, it may seem like there couldn’t be a worse time to be alive and single. But that all depends on your perspective. 

Up until the Industrial Revolution, ‘dating,’ or ‘courting’ was highly constrained, and at all times monitored by family members. A young lady would specify times at which she was accepting ‘callers’ to the house, and they would sit in the parlour and get to know each other, from a distance. 

But with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution came a huge wave of migration into urban centres from rural areas and smaller towns, meaning there was more opportunity for mixing between the genders. Women were starting to enter the workforce outside of the home in much greater numbers, and there they could meet men without family supervision. 

And then, during the economic boom in the USA following WWII, young people suddenly found themselves with a lot of disposable income, which they spent on leisure activities they now had the opportunity to pursue. In order to date, you had to spend money: this is how dating and the economics first became intertwined. 

The next great revolution came with the advent of the internet. In 1999, there were 2500 registered dating websites. In 2009, Grindr launched, followed by Tinder in 2012, and it’s been impossible to turn back. Everyone has access to almost unlimited potential partners at their fingertips, and in their pockets. Meeting people has never been easier, but that begs the question: does that make us happier?

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