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But in the 20th century this all changed, with young people deciding they wanted to be in charge of their own domestic destinies.Matchmakers were viewed as hook-nosed crones from Fiddler on the Roof or pushy Mrs Bennet at the Pemberley ball.I filled forms about my interests, my opinions and my personal goals – which was having a family – something I’d been too frightened to mention to my exes in the early days for fear of scaring them off.
Yes, according to psychologists at Chicago University who last week reported that marriages that begin online – whether on an online dating site or via social networking sites like Facebook – stood a greater chance of success than those that began in the “real world”.
“We’d love to get hold of more of it, but they’re not keen to share though we’re in discussion with a few of them,” says Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University and author of The Science of Love and Betrayal.
“They have a huge database and they also can follow couples’ stories through, which hasn’t been possible so far.” For most of history, using a third party to help you find love was the norm.
The result is that, rather than being someone that defies all calculation, love is now big business worth an annual billion internationally and growing at 70 per cent a year – with high-tech venture capitalists, psychologists and software engineers reaping vast rewards.
Academics, meanwhile, are fascinated by the data being gathered — and largely kept secret — by the dating industry.
Cash-rich, time-poor professionals who already do everything from shop to socialise online, now see a search engine as the obvious gateway to love.