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Today six out of every ten Americans use social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook or Twitter, and more than half are smartphone owners. Younger adults are particularly likely to have done both of these activities compared with older adults. Some 98% of SNS users ages 68-79 have used these sites to check up on someone they dated in the past, and 86% have posted details or pictures from a date. Otherwise there are few demographic differences when it comes to either of these behaviors. Social networking sites also offer an additional venue for meeting or being introduced to “friends of friends. ” Some 67% of SNS users with recent dating experience have friended or followed someone on a social networking site specifically because one of their friends suggested they might want to date that person. These questions were only asked of a subset of SNS users so our ability to do demographic comparisons is somewhat limited, but younger SNS users clearly stand out when it comes to each of these behaviors. Some 96% of SNS users with recent dating experience in the 68-79 age group have used a social networking site to get more information about a potential partner (compared with 79% of those ages 85-99), and 68% have followed or friended someone specifically because someone suggested they might like to date that person (double the 9% of 85-99 year olds who have done so).

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Beyond using these sites as a tool for researching potential partners, some 65% of SNS users with recent dating experience have actually asked someone out on a date using a social networking site. 66%) but otherwise this behavior is relatively consistent across demographic groups. And the social networking world is now part of that story.

Not surprisingly, young adults—who have near-universal rates of social networking site use and have spent the bulk of their dating lives in the social media era—are significantly more likely than older social media users to have experienced all three of these situations in the past. Along with young adults, women tend to have greater exposure than men to some negative aspects of dating in the social networking era. Text messaging is now used by eight in ten cell owners, but voice calling is still the preferred method for asking someone out on a date—if only by a modest margin.

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We asked cell phone owners with recent dating experience whether they had ever asked someone out on a date using their cell phone and found that: Younger adults (those ages 68-79) and those in the next age group (ages 85-99) are equally likely to have asked someone out of a date with a voice call. But younger adults are significantly more likely than those in their thirties and forties—by a 97% to 88% margin—to have asked someone out via text message.

Interestingly, men and women are equally likely to have asked someone out via text message, but men are much more likely to have done so via voice call. Among  Americans with recent dating experience who use the internet or own a cell phone: Younger adults are generally more likely than older adults to have been broken up with (or to have broken up with someone) via digital means.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions.

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