In fact, today’s young adults – who were born just as online dating really started to take over – wouldn’t know it any other way.
But for hundreds of years, the job of matchmaker largely fell to the internet’s ink-and-paper predecessor – the local newspaper.
In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, hilarious, sad and often poignant clippings reveal how people found a romantic match in times past.
Ranging from articles to lovestruck poems and lonely hearts columns, they might provide an unlikely source of inspiration if you’ve someone to woo.
Hilarious newspaper clippings reveal how people found a match before dating apps, in the form of lovestruck poems, lonely hearts columns and articles
The priceless clippings are from Newspapers.com, an online archive of over 300 million pages of historical newspapers, run by genealogy site Ancestry.com.
‘The process of finding love is always evolving, and our distant ancestors would be bewildered by today’s world of online communication and dating apps,’ said Laura House, family history expert at Ancestry.
‘However, though the medium has changed, there are some elements of the dating game that remain familiar.’
One clipping from the archive, taken from a 1936 edition of Birmingham‘s Evening Despatch, shows that the newspaper reporter even had to act as matchmaker.
The story, titled ‘Midland woman seeks husband’, simply reports on a ‘truly lonely’ lady aged 38 looking for a husband ‘aged about 50 or 60’.
In an attempt to give herself the best chances of finding her man, she gives her traits as ‘domesticated’, ‘affectionate’ and ‘broadminded’.
The unnamed female also has a good sense of humour and a ‘house of her own at a small seaside resort’.
The priceless clippings are from Newspapers.com, an online archive of over 300 million pages of historical newspapers, run by genealogy site Ancestry.com
She adds that she is ‘not a gold-digger’ – meaning she doesn’t need a man of great wealth – because she has ‘means of her own’.
However, she does want a gentleman of ‘good standing and education’.
At the end of the article, male readers are urged to get in touch to register their interest.
Nearly 100 years on, the matter of whether or not the article was a success and the woman found love may be lost to history.
In a much earlier clipping, from Chester Chronicle, and Cheshire and North Wales General Advertiser back in 1796, a man called William Ed. Cens addresses the object of his desires, Mary, in a self-made poem.
The lovesick author writes: ‘HASTE, Mary, oh! come to my arms; Impatient thy absence I bear; When musing to think of those charms, Which, tempting, my passions ENSNARE.’
He adds that he values Mary ‘as much as a friend’ and asks her to ‘bless me once more with delight’ – suggesting they may already have had an encounter.
In this 1920 poem printed in the Hanwell Gazette and Brentford Observer, the author reminisces about ‘those gentle hands’ and ‘pure eyes’
Perhaps hurt by prior experiences, William says ‘some women by absence will change’, whilst others ‘are faithful to love’.
Another poem, published in the Hanwell Gazette and Brentford Observer in 1920, seems to express hope of finding another partner.
The author, B. L. K. Henderson, writes: ‘Another heart is beating; Within another soul there dwells a sigh; And hope yearns deeply towards another meeting; Another love is born which shall not die.’
Henderson also reminisces about ‘those gentle hands’ and ‘pure eyes’, suggesting he or she may be struggling to get over a past lover.
Thirty years later, on July 28, 1950, the popular Reveille tabloid reported an unconventional event that aimed to help singletons connect en masse.
An article in the paper read: ‘Trains, coaches and planes are being chartered to bring 2000 lonely hearts from all over the world to the little Northumbrian seaside town of Whitley Bay for the most unconventional Convention ever staged.
‘1000 spinsters and widows and 1000 bachelors and widowers between 18 and 80 will arrive in Whitley Bay to spend a meet-and-marry weekend as delegates of a Lonely Hearts Convention.’
‘Resort plays cupid’: In July 1950, the Reveille newspaper reports the meeting of 2,000 men and women in Whitely Bay for the ultimate match-up event
Fast-forward about 30 years and finding a match had become a lot easier.
By the 1980s, newspapers were hosting classifieds for telephone dating, which often involved phoning up a number and being directed to an operator.
The operator would take down some personal information and match them with another individual, although it was a laborious process compared with the ease of today’s apps.
Telephone dating largely gave way to online dating in the 1990s as the internet became largely accessible from people’s homes.
‘Adults only if you dare’: In this 1988 copy of Sandwell Evening Mail, classifieds give numbers for telephone dating
Generally, online dating as we know it is dated back to 1995, when Match.com, the first widely recognized online dating website, went live.
A plethora of other dating sites with a unique target demographic were set up in the next 10 to 15 years including OKCupid (2004), Plenty of Fish (2006), Grindr (2009) and Happn (2013).
One of the most popular, Bumble launched in 2014, aimed to give women the upper hand by only allowing females to send the first message.