New York (AFP) – From adulterous middle-aged marrieds to millennials who say only freaks chat up people in bars, millions of Americans are finding love online as technology corners the market in romance.
New York has a reputation as a party capital of the world, where sex is free and easy and unmarried adults outnumber their married counterparts.
Glued to smartphones at every waking moment, New Yorkers shop online for everything from jobs to food. So why not love?
Promises of lasting happiness, a kinky affair or a one-night stand — all at the click of a button — are dangled before lonely hearts who sign onto a dazzling array of dating sites.
Andrea Morales, a 25-year-old graduate student from Costa Rica, used to think Internet dating was a bolt-hole for the desperate. Then she moved to New York.
“A lot of people I met here started telling me it’s super normal,” Morales says. “At first I felt weird about it… but it’s really hard to meet new people apart from your friends.”
She signed up to Tinder and OkCupid, and found herself going on three dates a week. She met her last girlfriend online. The couple dated for seven months before breaking up.
“I didn’t have any really horrible experiences,” says Morales. “But most of my straight friends had horrible stories, because there are creepy men out there.”
Online dating is all the more attractive in a city where friendship groups are tight, relationships at work can be perilous and where dalliances in bars are viewed with suspicion or quickly forgotten.
About 31 percent of people now meet their last love interest online, anthropologist Helen Fisher told CNN.
Match.com, which claims to be the world’s largest dating site, says it has created more than 10 million relationships in the United States in 20 years.
But there are pitfalls: hackers breached the online adultery website Ashley Madison — which claims millions of users worldwide — and threatened to expose data on users.
‘I’ll just swipe again’
“Technology is not changing love. Technology is changing how we court,” Fisher told CNN. “It can never change love. Love is an ancient brain system.”
Morales says she has spent up to 20 minutes at a time “swiping” through photographs of prospective dates on Tinder.
“In New York, there’s always someone else. It’s just full of young, fairly educated, fun people so there’s always this idea of whatever. I’ll just swipe again,” she says.
“I feel people are more disposable.”
Tinder was set up in 2012 and claims to create 26 million matches around the world every day.
The app puts people in touch who “swipe right” on photos of each other — indicating potential attraction.
“Tinder has revolutionized the way that people meet,” a company spokesperson trumpeted. “‘Swipe left’ and ‘swipe right’ have become a part of the cultural vernacular.”
For younger New Yorkers, Tinder has become a way of life — or at least a crutch to get through lean times in love.
One 24-year-old woman, who works as a designer and asked not to be named, said she had a tight circle of friends and was younger than her colleagues, so the Internet was the only place to meet partners.
“It’s creepy for men to hit on you in a bar, or in the street or in a train,” she said. “Most girls have that little edge that something bad will happen, that they (the men) are freaks.
“It weirds me out,” she says. “I’ve never met up with someone I haven’t talked to for a few days.”
But an online facade can quickly unravel in person.
“One guy I thought was cool and normal told me ‘I’m bisexual and I’m probably going to jail because of all these drugs I sold.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t actually like you very much,'” she says.
Happy ever after
Sites provide access to more potential partners, but browsing and comparing can reduce willingness to commit to one person, cautions an article in the journal Psychological Science.
There is “little evidence” that “algorithms can predict whether people are good matches or will have chemistry with one another.”
But curriculum director Emily Helfgot, 42, and librarian Robert Weinstein, 44, are the lucky ones. They met online in 2012. Three years later, they are married.
Helfgot says she used dating sites “on and off probably for three years” before meeting Weinstein. He had just gone back online after a previous relationship fell apart.
“What I learned was exchange a couple of emails, and they should be meaty, you should be getting something out of them and then you should meet as soon as possible,” she said.
They happened to live in the same neighborhood and they hung out at the same places. They wondered whether they would have met in real life and whether they would have liked each other.
Weinstein confesses to “a bit of a stigma” about how they met but says the embarrassment “went out very quickly”.
“For all the pitfalls, annoyances and tumult of online dating, I’m so glad I did it!” said Helfgot
Google created a video to show its new language translation engine in action, where people in different countries hold up signs with words from “La Bamba,” the Mexican folk song popularized by Ritchie Valens. As the people hold up their cards, you can see someone with a smartphone standing in front of the camera, instantly translating the Spanish words into English.
This new upgrade to Google Translate is also particularly important because its real-time translation function for both voice and visual inputs has been improved to work even over slower or more unreliable mobile networks. So no matter where you are or which country you’re visiting, you’ll always have a quick, mostly-reliable language translator, which now works in 27 different languages.
Watch Google’s video below to see how the Translate app keeps up with “La Bamba.”
But Windows 10 isn’t just designed to run on laptops and desktops. Soon, it will power all kinds of devices, including augmented reality headsets, tablets, and phones.
It’s the last one that’s going to be the biggest challenge for Microsoft. As good as Windows 10 is, Microsoft is still going to have a problem making Windows Phones relevant this fall when they get the new software.
Windows Phones only have about 3% of the global smartphone market, so developers have very little incentive to invest in making apps for Windows Phone because very few people will actually use it. And because it doesn’t have the best apps, there’s no incentive for people to buy a Windows Phone.
Windows Phones are caught in a Catch-22.
Microsoft’s hope is that Windows 10 will solve the app problem. The OS is a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users, which means potentially hundreds of millions of people will have it within the next few months. And any Windows 10 PC app can be tweaked to run on a phone too. Microsoft thinks developers will realize it has access to all of these users and start building apps for Windows Phones.
But there’s a flaw in that logic. The best and most popular phone apps are designed for the phone first. They’re not PC apps reverse engineered to run on a small screen. Just because millions of people will be using Windows 10 on desktop soon doesn’t mean mobile-only companies like Snapchat will start making apps for PCs and then phones.
In short, there’s very little chance Windows Phones will suddenly take off thanks to Windows 10.
On the other hand, Microsoft has another smart mobile strategy. It’s been systematically snapping up the best mobile productivity apps like Wunderlist and Sunrise, regardless of the platform they run on. For example, I had zero Microsoft apps running on my iPhone’s home screen. Now I have three. Microsoft has slowly been taking over iPhone.
Over time, that could build loyalty toward Microsoft and hook people back into the Windows ecosystem.
But for now, Windows 10 won’t be able to save Windows Phone.