I’m old enough to remember when meeting on the internet was considered strange, kind of like putting a singles ad in the back of the newspaper. The thought was: only a loser would need to resort to using the internet to meet someone!
Of course, times have changed and now, especially among the younger generation, internet dating is probably more popular and normal than trying to meet someone in other settings. Online dating use has tripled in recent years among 18-24 year olds and doubled among 55-64 year olds. And, the general acceptability of online dating has risen along with increase use.
So, if you are using online dating or have tried it in the past, you’re not alone. Online dating seems great, which is why, I believe, many people try it. They look at their problems with “real world” dating and see a great solution online. Swipe your problems away!
In theory, this makes sense. Lots of people are hampered by three main factors in real world dating: time, scale, and distance. They don’t have time to meet a lot of people, they don’t have the ability to meet large numbers of people, and it’s not practical to cover the distance necessary to solve the lack of overall local singles.
Online dating solves these problems. You can swipe right and connect with someone during your coffee break or when you can’t sleep at night. They can also respond at their own convenience. Time is solved.
A crowded local bar might have 20 people on a busy night. But, an online dating app has at least hundreds of singles, even in a small area, thousands in a larger one. Thus, scale no longer becomes an issue.
Distance isn’t an issue either. If your soulmate is 100 miles away, you don’t need to drive there and hope for the best. Just increase the distance on your app, meet the person, then you can decide if it’s worth the drive.
Online dating is perfect, right? Well, if it’s so great, then why do so many people complain about it?
Granted, anecdotal evidence doesn’t count for much. However, one study showed that of those who tried online dating, only 66% actually go on a date! So, if the purpose of online dating to actually… date, the stats show that large numbers of people are being left out.
I’m not surprised. I think online dating can be a part of a broader strategy. But, I believe it’s inferior to “real world” dating. Here is why…
It’s Too Looks Based
If you ask people what they like about their long term partner, they typically won’t say “he was within my perfect height and age range” or “her body type was from average to athletic, but not curvy.”
Guess what you can’t show online well or at all?
Charm, personality, humor, body language, subconscious cues, and chemistry of smell. So, online dating becomes all about physical appearance. And, even if you try to show personality, guess what most sites put front and center? Yep, a picture.
I believe that physical appearance is very important in attraction and would never judge a person for having preferences, even strict ones.
But, online dating has gone beyond seeking attractive physical appearance to creating a checklist of necessary physical traits. The logical brain takes over and people we might normally date in person get instantly rejected because they don’t logically meet our ten point (or more) checklist.
So, you are probably rejecting people instantly online (and being rejected by others) whom you might date and fall in love with if you met those people in any other context.
There’s Too Much Choice
When a friend of mine tried online dating, she was messaging a lot of guys. She’d string along a few, go out with a few, declare none to be good enough, then repeat the process over and over again.
She hasn’t gotten into any long term relationships. In fact, her success in online dating probably contributed to her NOT finding a good, stable long term relationship.
She loved the attention from multiple guys and the power that came from choosing among them. When it came time to commit, she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, because she enjoyed the process too much. And, there was always a new crop of guys ready to play along.
Although a lot of choice seems to be a good thing, in practice, the overabundance of choice in internet dating can be a huge problem. If people have too much choice, they often won’t make a choice at all.
Humans have never had so many romantic options at their fingertips. A janitor with charm and swagger or a super hot McDonald’s cashier has more choice at their fingertips than all but the most famous and powerful men and women of the past.
Such options can be good, but they can also create scenarios like my friend where so many options and the possibilities of options mean that people never want to even make a commitment. They treat online dating as an end in and of itself, rather than a means to a stable, loving long term relationship.
It Leads to Choosiness
You would think a lot of choice leads to a lot of people getting a share of the dating “pie.” But, that’s not true. Studies related to online dating show it actually makes people, but women in particular, more choosy. What this means for a lot of guys (and less attractive women) is that only a small percentage of online dating users get all the attention.
One analysis of the OK Cupid dating site involved creating fake male and female profiles. What it found was that average and lower attractiveness men basically get zero messages. That’s right: zero. The same is true for women who aren’t traditionally considered physically attractive, although they fare better than men of the same level of physical attractiveness.
The lesson? Online dating is just like offline dating: the most attractive people get virtually all the attention and action.
You Only Get the Fake Side
My friend whom I mentioned in the last section not only won’t settle down in a real relationship, but is pretty much a mess financially, emotionally, and vocationally. In other words, she’s the type most guys would seriously think twice about dating if they knew her history.
But, to look at her Tinder profile, she’s happy, successful, and confident. Of course, that’s understandable. People put their best feet forward with their online dating profiles. But, it leads to fakeness.
In real world dating, we often have a general background of the people we’ve met. They might be colleagues or friends of friends. At the very least, we might even know a little of their reputation. With online dating, however, we might see only the “great” side each person wants to share.
I see online dating a lot like posting a resume. I hire people and I can tell you that a good resume doesn’t necessarily mean a good employee. Likewise, a great profile doesn’t necessarily mean a great date or relationship.
When you look at that perfect profile and think she’s too hot for you or he’s too awesome, remember they are likely faking it to a large degree.
These reasons aren’t meant to discourage you from trying online dating. However, I do advise you approach it with some hard realism, knowing that it’s not going to be a miracle cure for your singleness. You’re essentially getting a pretty superficial setting where people have many options and are showing you only their best side.
However, armed with that knowledge you can certainly be successful. Just mix in a real world strategy and work on your own attractiveness. Lots of people who try online dating find success. But, I have yet to see evidence that even a majority come away happy with the experience.
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