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relationships & special occasions

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How online dating is changing who we marry in unexpected ways

Thanks to the rise of numerous dating apps and sites, such as TinderOKCupid or Match.com, dating culture has experienced a significant shift over the past two decades.

» RELATED: Tired of swiping for love? This new dating app sends you straight to the first date

And though online dating has received its fair share of bad press with accusations of fueling hook-up culture, stories of scam artists and of first dates gone wrongnew research shows online dating has influenced the nature of society in some positive ways.

>> Read more trending news

For their study, economics professors Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria examined how online dating has changed the racial diversity of society.

» RELATED: Report: Every 3 hours, an online dater gets scammed

The authors hypothesized that internet dating services may be a driving force behind stronger marriages, interracial partnerships and a primary way for people to connect with those outside their social circles.

“Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies,” the authors told MIT Technology Review.

They created a simulated model network of men and women of different racial backgrounds in which everyone wants to marry a person of the opposite sex, but can only marry someone with whom they have a connection.

» RELATED: Atlanta ranked among worst cities for dating 

The model is a reflection of society, which Ortega and Hergovich said is essentially “a web of interlinked nodes.”

According to the professors, most people are connected to close friends and family (and some others) with about 100 nodes. And changing the network, like building new highways, can completely change how the network functions, they said.

» RELATED: What happened the year interracial marriages increased more than 400% in Georgia?

“Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” Ortega and Hergovich told MIT Technology Review.

They then compared the model results with the rates of interracial marriage in the U.S.

Since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized marriage across racial lines, intermarriage has increased steadily, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2015, Pew found that 1 in 6 American newlyweds (17 percent) married a person of a different race or ethnicity. In 1967, only 3 percent did.

“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” they said.

But it’s possible that, as MIT Technology Review noted, the reduction in the percentage of white Americans was a contributing factor in the rise of interracial marriages in the U.S.

» RELATED: RE:Race – AJC staffer Pete Corson on interracial marriage

Still, research authors said the change in the population’s composition can’t fully explain the huge increase in intermarriage.

Overall, according to Pew research, more and more American adults (approximately 39 percent in 2015) say interracial marriage is generally good for American society.

In 2010, 24 percent of American adults said it was a positive trend.

More from Pew Research Center.

The professors’ model also predicted that marriages established online are more robust and less likely to end in divorce, a hypothesis backed by previous research from the University of Florida in 2013.

The pre-published version of the study is available online at arxiv.org and is currently undergoing its full peer-review process.

Man, wife and sister: A heartwarming union

This one is a keeper.

Earlier this year, Will Seaton showed there are still many good guys out there. When Seaton decided it was finally time to pop the question to Ashley Schaus, there was one person he had to ask a very important question. No, not her father, but rather her sister Hannah. 

Seaton asked Hanna to be his “best friend forever.”

>> Read more trending news 

Hanna has Down’s syndrome and diabetes, and when Seaton and Schaus started dating, Hanna was part of the deal, the couple told ABC News in June.

The couple got married on Oct. 7 and Hanna was there in a special role. 

Wearing a white dress of her own, Hanna was a bridesmaid, but she was also dubbed the “Best Sister.”

Hanna also exchanged “best friend vows” with Will, WXIN reported.

“I promise to tell funny jokes. I promise to care for you. Thank you for being in my life,” Hanna told Will.

They also had a first dance together, to the Michael Bublè version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” WXIN reported.

DUI stop turns into proposal of a lifetime

A traffic stop had a life-changing ending.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy came up with a major prank just to get the chance to ask his girlfriend to marry him, The Mercury News reported.

>> Read more trending news

Kevin Bowes, a deputy at the Palmdale station, and his coworkers pulled his girlfriend over, saying that they were doing the traffic stop for a driving under the influence test. As she followed their field sobriety test instructions, Bowes got into position. The final instruction was to have her turn around. When she did, she discovered the deputy on one knee holding a ring box.

The video was posted on the department’s Facebook page, where it has had more than 238,000 views in two days.

Before eventually saying yes, she asked Bowes if he was serious. She then ran over to him crying, hugged him then collapsed in his arms, kissing him.

Couple takes wedding photos at Taco Bell

A Jacksonville couple took some unforgettable wedding photos Friday -- at a local Taco Bell.

Nikki Baerman tells Action News Jax that she photographed Skylain and Jeffery Clarke's wedding on Sept. 29.

>> Read more trending news 

They are high school sweethearts who got married on their 6-year dating anniversary.

Baerman said in a Facebook post that Taco Bell was the couple's go-to spot after class in high school.

Skylain told Baerman that they would always scrape together all the quarters Jeffrey had in his car to go eat together after class at Westside High School.

"So what better place to end their wedding day than Taco Bell?" Baerman said on Facebook. "When they told me they were doing this, I immediately invited myself along for the adventure."

Baerman took several photos of the couple inside the Taco Bell near The Avenues, including one with a Hot sauce packet that says "I do."

"They are such a sweet, fun-loving couple and this was the icing on the cake that day," Baerman said. 

People with this face shape are more likely to cheat, study suggests

Can you predict a person’s sexual drive and likelihood to cheat just by looking at them? You might. Those with wider dimensions are more likely to cheat, according to a new report.

>> On AJC.com: Are men or women in relationships more likely to lose interest in sex?

Researchers from universities in Canada recently conducted two experiments, which were published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, to determine the link between physiological features and sexual conduct and other behaviors.

In the first examination, they assessed 145 heterosexual men in undergraduate school by measuring their faces and FWHR, the width of the face divided by the height of the upper face.

>> Read more trending news

They then asked participants to participate in a survey that focused on their sexual behaviors, attitudes and personality traits.

In the second study, they analyzed 314 college men and women, taking the same measurements and adding a few more variables to the questionnaire, such as sexual orientation, chances of infidelity and sociosexual orientation, which evaluates an individual’s perception of casual sex. 

>> On AJC.com: ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater'? New infidelity study says yes

After analyzing the results, scientists found that folks with a high FWHR, or square and wide face, reported having a greater sex drive, compared to the others.

Furthermore, those with a larger FWHR were more likely to be comfortable with casual sex and consider being unfaithful to their partner. This was especially true among men. 

“The present research was the first to link the human FWHR to sex drive,” the study read. “Results provide novel insight into FWHR as a morphological predictor of men’s sociosexuality and infidelity intentions.”

>> On AJC.com: 7 things people think are terrible for their relationship that actually aren’t

While scientists noted that their research only included young adults, the authors believe their findings “extend the field’s understanding of FWHR as a morphological index of psychology and behavior.”

Study finds bald men are perceived as more attractive, confident and dominant

Men who are worried about being bald or going bald have little to fear following a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

>> Read more trending news 

Researchers conducted three tests to assess male and female students’ perceptions of bald men and shared the results in a study called “Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance.” The students were asked to rate pictures of bald men, some digitally altered to add or take away hair, in terms of attractiveness, confidence and dominance. Bald men received high ratings in all three categories.

There’s also good news for men who aren’t going bald: The study also showed that men who willingly shaved their hair despite social norms were seen as more appealing.

“Instead of spending billions each year trying to reverse or cure their hair loss, the counter-intuitive prescription of this research to men experiencing male pattern baldness is to shave their heads,” the study reported.

Day care center combines senior care and child care

A combined senior day center and preschool is bringing joy to both the young and old.

>> Read more trending news 

Bethlehem Intergenerational Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, cares for both 5-year-olds and 75-year-olds. The concept blossomed from a research project, according to WXMI.

RELATED: Stranger captures photo of elderly man feeding his wife ice cream in touching display of love

The center has two wings, one for the elderly and one for children. Every day, workers plan activities the kids and adults can do together. They also build in time for small group activities.

“I know the little kids love having grandma or grandpa figures around, and they love having the grandchildren around,” said Rebecca Lopez, a nurse’s aide at the center. “It’s a wonderful program, and I see it going far.”

“This program is about engagement and relationship and sense of purpose and having a safe place to bring your loved one during the day,” Sue Davidson, the center’s director, told WXMI.

According to WXMI, a half day at the center costs $49, and a full day costs $78.

Read more at WXMI.

Here's why you might want to stop using smiley faces in emails

Think you’re being nice when you add a smiley face to the end of your email? According to one study, you could be conveying something else. 

>> Read more trending news 

The new study, titled the “The Dark Side of a Smiley,” examines the “effects of smiling emoticons on virtual first impressions.”

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that, contrary to popular belief, virtual smiley faces are not a suitable replacement for an in-person smile.

In fact, “smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” the researchers found. 

The study, which involved 549 participants from 29 countries, tested three experiments to gather findings. 

One experiment revealed that when the gender of the email sender was unknown, recipients assumed it was a woman if the sender used a smiley face. This finding did not correlate with participants’ conclusions with friendliness or competence.

Another experiment found that not only do recipients of professional emails with smiley faces generally view senders as less competent, they’re also less willing to share important information with the sender. When considering two emails that are exactly the same with the only difference being that one includes a smiley face, the one without the emoticon is more commonly effective.

“The study ... found that when the participants were asked to respond to emails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the email did not include a smiley,” said Dr. Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at the BGU Department of Management, Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. “We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing.”

Although using smiley faces in professional emails could hinder communication in the workplace with new or unknown contacts and coworkers, the practice is more acceptable and less harmful when used with workplace buddies.

“People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial ‘encounters’ are concerned, this is incorrect,” Glikson said.  “For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”

The concise conclusion? 

“In formal business emails, a smiley is not a smile,” Glikson said.

Love at 30,000 feet: Man proposes on flight from Atlanta

For Deepum Patel and his long-distance love, Neha Chakravarti, getting on a plane usually meant sad goodbyes and a painful separation.

>> Read more trending news 

The couple spent nearly two years flying back-and-forth from Atlanta, where Patel works, to Pennsylvania, where Chakravati attended dental school.

But last week, Patel took what had long been a sad ritual and replaced it with much happier memory. On a Delta flight from Atlanta to Boston, he asked Chakravati to be his wife.

Patel worked with the airline to set up the big moment at 30,000 feet.

Shortly after the plane reached cruising altitude, crews called Chakravati to the front of the plane to help with a staged medical emergency.

But instead of helping a sick passenger, she was surprised to hear the couple's favorite song. Patel joined her at the front of the plane asked her to "dance through life with him" before getting down on one knee.

Of course, an elated Chakravati said yes.

The couple's fellow passengers also got in on the sweet moment. Patel passed out cards in advance asking them to snap photos and videos. Delta provided champagne for travelers to toast to the future Mr. and Mrs. Deepum Patel and their fellow passengers shared stories about happy marriages and wished the couple luck.

After the celebration, the pilot read a statement Patel wrote over the plane's intercom:

“These two lovebirds have kept up a long-distance relationship with the help of Delta for nearly two years. The future groom has kindly asked me to remind you to call the special people in your life today and tell them how much you love them.”

The couple will continue on their planned three-week vacation to Iceland and Europe as an engaged couple.

Grandparents celebrate 68th anniversary with darling photo shoot thanks to granddaughter

A Kentucky couple has a love story for the ages.

Ollie, 83, and Donald King, 87, have been married for nearly 68 years and have not spent a full day or night apart in those six decades, “Good Morning America” reported.

>> Read more trending news 

As part of their upcoming anniversary celebration in September, the Kings’ granddaughter, Ashley Owen, gave them a present that will hopefully last for generations to come: a photo shoot of her grandparents who are still madly in love.

Now the photos, which were taken by Paige Franklin, are taking the internet and social media by storm.

The photos were taken on the couple’s farm in Crab Orchard, Kentucky. 

Donald is a retired pastor and Ollie is, according to the love of her life, a “masterful quilter,” Franklin told the Huffington Post.

“He explained that they never preferred anyone over the other, and that the Lord has spared them to live this long to love each other,” Franklin said.

The Owens have three children and five grandchildren, the Huffington Post reported.

To see more of the photos, click here.

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