The origins of online dating

Many of the postings were simply calls for friends or pen pals, becoming especially popular among single servicemen, called "lonely soldiers," during World War I.

"At that time advertising for pals or for lonely soldiers was fashionable and contemporary — something done by those who were, as they put it in their ads, 'bohemian and unconventional,'" Cocks said.

Internet dating is just the modern version of the first "matrimonial" agencies of the 1700s, which helped lonely bachelors search for wives through printed ads, said author H. Cocks, a history lecturer at the University of Nottingham, UK.

In between, the social acceptance of personals has waxed and waned with the times.

"Advertising for a husband or wife has always attracted criticism and the people who did it were always thought of as failures in some way.

However advertising like this has a long and unbroken history, and was used by many people with some success," Cocks said.

From shameful to bohemian and cool It only took a few decades after the invention of the modern newspaper in 1690 for the new medium to become a way for people to meet in Britain.

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