35% of Marriages Now Begin Online Controversial eHarmony study says over a third met through the Internet By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff Posted Jun 3, 2013 4:53 PM CDT 4 comments Comments (Shutterstock) (Newser) – Things have come so far since Meg Ryan falling in love with Tom Hanks over AOL was considered a novel enough concept to make a film about it. Now more than a third of marriages in the US start out online, according to a survey of 19,000 people who married between 2005 and 2012. Of those who hooked up virtually before physically, 45% met through dating sites, while others met through chat sites, forums, and social media, reports USA Today. The study has caused some controversy, however: The research was commissioned and financed by dating site eHarmony. Lead author John Cacioppo is a psychologist and the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago ... but also on eHarmony's Scientific Advisory Board. But Cacioppo, who did the study with two independent statisticians from Harvard, defends the results. "I set stipulations that it would be about science and not about eHarmony," he says. "I had an agreement with eHarmony that I had complete control and we would publish no matter what we found and the data would be available to everyone."