The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.
While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other.
One-third of people who have used online dating have never actually gone on a date with someone they met on these sites.
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With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person.
Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other.
One factor behind the substantial growth among younger adults is their use of mobile dating apps.
About one-in-five 18- to 24-year olds (22%) now report using mobile dating apps; in 2013, only 5% reported doing so.
These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.
But it still means that one-third of online daters have not yet met up in real life with someone they initially found on an online dating site.
One-in-five online daters have asked someone else to help them with their profile.
Two thirds of online daters—66%—tell us that they have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or dating app.