I mean, one could argue that even Voyager 1's Golden Record is kind of a massive, interstellar personal ad (complete with the recorded sound of a kiss! It's as if humanity decided to document all our best features and send them into space with this message: So dating apps are really the latest manifestation of human beings doing what we've always done -- create new tools to communicate and then turn around and use those tools to find love, sex and companionship.
1695: The First Personal Ads According to history professor H. Cocks (seriously --The Best Name Ever for an academic) personal ads began as a way to help British bachelors find eligible wives.
But as magazines and periodicals such as The Wedding Bell in the US and The Correspondent, Matrimonial Herald and Marriage Gazette in the UK hit the newsstands with immense popularity, matchmaking and personals took off as well, creating the first wave of true mainstream normalization for the personal ad.
Late 1800s: The Scam Emerges You know, someone's always got to ruin the party.
The popularity of personals paved the way for grifters who soon realized that they could prey on the vulnerability of people seeking love.
Less-Than-Fun fact: homosexuality was outlawed and punishable by death in the UK by wife-murderer Henry VIII and continued to be illegal until 1967. A., anyone accused of being a "sodomite" doing "buggery" was also legally sentenced to death as of 1776.) Coded words, female names and other signals in personals were channels to privately expressing vulnerability and find companionship that society forbade.
During this time, gathering sites for gay men known as Molly Houses were subject to regular raids by law enforcement. 1727: Women Get Smacked Down for Expressing Personal Desire In 1727, Englishwoman Helen Morrison became the first woman to place an ad in a Lonely Hearts column.
She convinced the editor of the Manchester Weekly Journal to place a small ad stating she was "seeking someone nice to spend her life with." (It's radical, I know.....) 1800s: Aristocrats Catch On Always on the lookout for ways to exploit media for their own ends, aristocrats in the 1800s used personal ads to broadcast their interest in romantic engagements that seem scandalous by today's standards.
An 1841 ad in the Journal of Munich tells of a 70-year-old Baron seeking a woman "between 16 and 20 having good teeth and little feet." Mid 1800s: The General Public Follows In the mid-19th century, the need to advertise for a husband or wife was still considered a "failure" and associated with deviant behavior for many judgmental straight, white, middle-to-upper class people.
Hardly a week goes by without another new think piece about online dating either revolutionizing society or completely ruining our ability to have real relationships.
But these hyperbolic pronouncements miss a deeper fact: At its core, "online dating" isn't something we just started doing 5, 10 or even 20 years ago.