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"And mostly they're pretty unfounded." Rosenfeld, who has been keeping tabs on the dating lives of more than 3,000 people, has gleaned many insights about the growing role of apps like Tinder.

They are important today — roughly one of every four straight couples now meet on the Internet.

This environment, mind you, is just like the one we see in the offline world.

There’s no obvious pattern by which people who meet online are worse off. For people who have a hard time finding partners in their day-to-day, face-to-face life, the larger subset of potential partners online is a big advantage for them.

For folks who are meeting people everyday—really younger people in their early twenties—online dating is relevant, but it really becomes a powerful force for people in thin dating markets.

In a 2012 paper, I wrote about how among heterosexuals, the people who are most likely to use online dating are the middle-aged folks, because they’re the ones in the thinnest dating market.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The rise of phone apps and online dating websites gives people access to more potential partners than they could meet at work or in the neighborhood.It’s harder to feel alone when you’re 23, because everyone is a potential partner.But when you get to 40, most people your age are already settled down.In fact, people who meet their partners online are not more likely to break up — they don’t have more transitory relationships.

Once you’re in a relationship with somebody, it doesn’t really matter how you met that other person.But the fear that online dating is changing us, collectively, that it's creating unhealthy habits and preferences that aren't in our best interests, is being driven more by paranoia than it is by actual facts.