Illustration by Mike Norton for Sunday Business. (Mike Norton)

Years from now, anthropologists will have a field day examining how the mobile device changed ritualistic dating patterns within Western society. We already know that many people are in love with their mobile devices, in some cases preferring to spend time with them rather than with their partners. What are we are only starting to understand is how this intimate love affair with our mobile devices is forever changing not only how often and where we date, but also the types of people we find attractive and desirable.

Our mobile devices are introducing a fresh breath of serendipity into the courtship process, turning those boring interstitial moments in our lives into potentially exciting opportunities to connect with others. Geolocation changes everything, turning any ho-hum location into a potential dating zone. Say, for example, you’re waiting in line at the local supermarket. Instead of browsing through the magazines on the impulse-buy rack at the checkout counter and daydreaming about your perfect date, you can use a new mobile app from OKCupid to see who’s available in your immediate geographic area for a Crazy Blind Date (yes, that’s the name of the app). And there are other online dating apps from companies just like Crazy Blind Date, in which the geolocation functionality of your mobile device helps you find other people near you to meet.

As the whole process of dating has become a whole lot less casual, it’s also redefining the types of potential partners we find attractive. The classic date — a dinner and a show with someone that we find physically attractive — is becoming just as much a relic of our courtship process as the proverbial box of chocolates. Now that we broadcast our interests via a non-stop stream of likes online, we’re starting to devise new ways to meet people that we have more in common with than just physical attractiveness. How About We, for example, lets users propose unique date ideas in order to help find people with similar passions and interests. Instead of making a mixtape for someone, you can now suggest taking a fun DJ lesson together to see if your musical tastes are really compatible.

(FORUM | What effect is mobile tech having on your love life?)

But it’s not just the big online dating sites or cool dating apps — and there are many of them — that are revolutionizing the way we find potential partners. Now that Facebook is ready to roll out Graph Search to all one billion users, it will be theoretically possible to comb through a list of your friends and find (some say “stalk”) others with the same interests as you. No more letting your mother (or worse yet, your grandmother) set you up with someone they think you might like. While Facebook’s Graph Search was not intended at all as a dating tool, that's what it could soon become, especially as sophisticated algorithms make it increasingly easy to sort through all the Big Data we are leaving on the Web everyday. It is a new era — Love in the Time of Algorithms, as the title of Dan Slater’s book reads.

(Take the poll: Will you use a dating app on Valentine’s Day?)

Of course, it remains to be seen whether all this hyper-dating via mobile device is just another fad for the young, promiscuous digerati looking for love in all the wrong places — or every place they possibly can. But, this Valentine’s Day, if you’re still waiting at home waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to call, maybe you don’t have to or should, at least, reconsider. Remember, your mobile device is more than just a phone these days, it’s also a remarkably sophisticated tool to comb through the interests and likes of future paramours and then meet them in different contexts. Just as the concept of “arranged marriage” now strikes us as quaint, the idea that we would ever enter the dating fray without a mobile device or trust our hearts more than our minds might similarly strike us as anachronistic at some point in the near future.

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