Despite the explosion of online dating in the last decade, many Internet-weary New Yorkers are going old-school to meet their life partners.
They're approaching strangers and taking advantage of felicitous encounters at work and in the subway, and meetings that occur while participating in sports or pursuing their passions, love-locked New Yorkers we spoke with said.
"IRL" advocates attest that digital dialogue is no substitute for retro flesh-and-blood encounters to filter viable prospects. However, more than one-third of all marriages in America now begin with an online meeting, proving that the Internet is "altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself," according to a paper published in Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, which stopped collecting data in 2012.
Online courtship -- engaged in by at least 38% of all people who describe themselves as "single and looking," according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey -- is especially prevalent in NYC, where bars are thronged with young people diligently swiping and selecting profiles on their phones, seemingly oblivious to the potential mates around them.
Cyber-searching succeeds at matching people with extremely exacting criteria: Women who will only date dark, handsome men more than 6 feet tall, toe fetishists looking for other toe fetishists, guys who cannot imagine themselves with anyone other than an Eastern European supermodel.
But digital dating yields a lower return on investment for folks with less exacting deal breakers seeking someone with a sympatico vibe, some romantics said.
"Face-to-face is the way to go. It cuts through all the fat so quickly," testified videographer and photographer Jason Shaltz, 35, who met his wife, Annie, 33, in the subway. After seeing her for the second time in the same day on the F train five years ago, he chatted her up and gave her his card. They married May 17, 2014.
"My wife and I say once or twice a month it might have been fun to date online, but we feel so fortunate not to have had to," recounted Shaltz, who now lives with Annie, a nurse, in Prospect Park. "I feel very, very, very, very lucky," he said.
Perhaps the biggest knock against using the Internet primarily as a mate-finder is that many viable candidates aren't there to be found.
"I never would have met my husband online," because as "a late adopter," he wasn't using the Internet to date, said Margaret Breuninger, 33, an editorial director who lives on the Upper East Side.
It is also unlikely the man she loves would have passed her online filters to qualify for an in-person meeting.
On OKCupid, she was in search for what she thought she wanted -- "brooding, artsy, creative-types."
That in no way described Kyle, a happy finance professional, also 33, who Breuninger encountered in an Upper East Side bar.
After an old-fashioned courtship ("he actually called me on the phone!"), Breuninger realized they had all the important ingredients to build lives in tandem. Getting to know Kyle de novo, without a crib sheet, "was half the fun," she said. Married in 2013, they now have a 5-month-old son.
"I'm over the moon. I wouldn't have it any other way," Breuninger said.
Nor would anyone have found Upper West Side ad sales professional Eric Blumenfeld, 35, on JDate, Match, OKCupid or Tinder because his "hopeless romantic streak" kept him from trying online dating.
He and Emery Rosansky, 30, now a vice president of sales for a technology firm, fell in love while volunteering together for New York Cares.
She was immediately captivated by Blumenfeld's chivalry and endearing child-friendliness. While working on an art-project in an after-school program before Thanksgiving, Blumenfeld "made his turkey look really bad on purpose," to bring a shy child out of his shell, Rosansky recalled.
Before meeting Blumenfeld, Rosansky spent a frustrating week on one well-known free dating site. "The whole process just didn't feel genuine," she said.
"We might be dinosaurs," Blumenfeld conceded, but he appreciated the "magic" nature of a friends first organic courtship without artifice.
LGBT people are especially likely to meet a partner on the Internet, with 67% reporting that they met their mates online (compared to 23% of heterosexual couples), said Michael Rosenfeld, lead author of the landmark 2012 study, "Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary."
But even some lesbians and gay men prefer face-to-face courtship.
"It's better to meet people in person. You can see how they really are and gauge their level of sincerity," said Tiffany Crawford, 27, a construction worker from Fordham, who is engaged to Stephanie White, 25.
Crawford would have never made it past the dating filters to her now-fiancee, because in 2012, when they met while working together at the clothing store H&M, White was only dating men.
Crawford politely declared her crush, at first shocking her co-worker. But then White, now a retail store manager, realized Crawford met all the requirements she was looking for in a mate. "She was just an awesome person and such a great friend. I was really open for love and realized everything I wanted just happened to be in a lady's body," White explained.
"Serendipity is really powerful. Most of the things that attract you to another person you can't judge until you meet," said Rosenfeld.
But in the end, online-daters will still need physical chemistry, he added.
"People who encounter each other online still have to meet in person," Rosenfeld stressed. "All the same rules apply."
That's precisely why some people prefer to cut to the physical chase, dating people they have already observed in their natural, shared habitats.
"In online dating, it's very easy to have good chemistry electronically, but it doesn't always happen in person," Josh Sakofsky, a 35-year-old network engineer who hails from Battery Park, learned first hand.
He's been married since last year to Alex La Rosa, 29, a fashion designer. After glimpsing each other in a yoga class a felicitous street meeting led to love. La Rosa, who had never dated electronically, liked the fact they shared a commitment to health, fitness, and leading a balanced life.
But are courtships that begin IRL more successful than those that start online? Not by much if at all, says Rosenfeld, who tracked more than 3,000 couples for six years.
Whether two people remain coupled is more determined by whether they're married and how long they've been together, he said. The break-up rate for married couples is about 1.7% a year, but zooms to 15% for unmarried cohabiting couples. And the break-up rate for unmarried couples not living together "is higher than 20%," Rosenfeld said.