These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright Alamy Image caption Epic romance - Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, From marrying a neighbour or someone at church, to swiping through dozens of faces on a smartphone screen, the journey to find love is changing fast. It was easier in the olden days. Future spouses could be found living around the corner. Or at least in your part of town.
In James Brossard, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, looked through 5, consecutive marriage licences issued to people living in the city of Philadelphia. The details of this snapshot - from one US city more than 80 years ago - feature in Modern Romance, a book co-written by comedian and actor Aziz Ansari of sitcom Parks and Recreation fame and sociology professor Eric Klinenberg.
For Ansari - a child of the s and 90s - the Philadelphia model is not for him. Can we make ourselves seem more desirable by delaying our text response times? Why is everyone sexting? Over the past 35 years the average mean age for marriage across the UK has risen from mids to mids. The graph data includes people getting hitched later in life for a second, third or fourth time. But even so - since in Scotland, in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland - the average age for a first marriage passed the 30 mark for both men and women.
These changes are, explains Klinenberg, not just about technology - they are also linked to deeper cultural shifts.
And they married locally, because they were basically looking for a 'good enough' partner, and that didn't require much of a search. A full set of teeth? Once that checked out, the wedding was on. The average age for a woman to tie the knot there in the s and early 60s was a little over For Modern Romance, Ansari and Klinenberg were given access to data from online dating sites around the world - but they also gleaned information from hundreds of people through interviews and focus groups.
There is no doubt that online dating and smartphones are dramatically changing the way people hook up. In the US in , family connections and church were common ways to find a romantic partner. But, by the turn of the Millennium, the internet was revolutionising the way people got together. In particular, online connections are growing for those interested in same-sex relationships - but increasingly older and middle-aged straight people too, says sociologist Michael Rosenfeld from Stanford University, who provided data for the book.
Ansari and Klinenberg think the reasons are obvious. It's down to a smaller pool of potential romantic partners and lower odds of finding romance face-to face - whether through friends, in schools or in public places. Klinenberg and Ansari cite social psychologist Jonathan Haidt on what he describes as the "prototypical courses" of the two kinds of love - passionate and companionate. In less than six months the passion may fade, Haidt suggests - while the companionate nature of a relationship may not have grown sufficiently in strength.
Klinenberg says since the social changes of the s, romantic ideals have evolved and options have expanded. What is certainly true is that the search for romance is taking those looking for love further than their own neighbourhood.