“So, how did you two meet?” It’s a question that has many answers for couples in the 2010s. Connectivity, advanced smartphones and a deluge of images and videos turned the dating world on its head.

This piece is part one of a three-part series on how technology shaped the last decade of our lives. You can read more about the tech of the decade here.

For centuries, people have explored romantic relationships after meeting through friends, family and even workplaces, but the classic meet-cute has changed, and brought with it a new kind of social stigma.

Throughout the 2010s, dating apps replaced typical bulletin board-style dating services and personals ads as the swiping effect took over.

Apps in their infancy redefined “hook-up” culture. And meeting someone via an app brought with it a notion that the relationship wasn’t made to last, because of where it was forged.

But, these apps have now evolved. They’ve become a more convenient and personal way to meet a long-term partner – someone you could see yourself with over the years rather than just for a few weeks of fun.

They’ve been made more inclusive for all genders, and user experiences have been made safer thanks to different options for making contact and sexual health reporting in some apps.

The decade of the smartphone brought with it a seismic shift in the way people met each other – and as the apps evolved, their gravitational pull on singles increased to a critical mass. A study from Stanford University in 2009 found that people were primarily still being introduced to partners through mutual friends. Dating “apps” at the turn of the last decade barely existed, and the ones that did were early smartphone-based copies of basic bulletin board-style dating services rather than the location-based “swipe” apps of today.

The same study conducted in 2019 found that “heterosexual couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections”. Researchers in the study believed that friends would never be supplanted in the dating process – but as the smartphone continues to improve, so does the online dating community.

Your phone can offer more potential partners at scale than your mum has friends with nice sons or daughters, and the people your friends introduce you to may not guarantee the same diverse experience offered by a dating app.