Online Dating: Are You Attracting the Right Type?
Find out if your dating strategy goes for quantity or quality.
Posted Jun 17, 2019
In a recent post “Why Authenticity is the Best Dating Strategy” I reviewed research conducted by myself and my colleagues on why “Being Yourself” is the best dating strategy for those looking to have successful long-term romantic relationships.
Participants who are high on authenticity have more committed relationships, have more emotional intelligence, and engage in a dating strategy in which they show interest, make themselves emotionally available, and are transparent in showing their feelings. Authentic individuals that adopt such a dating strategy tend to attract individuals like themselves, resulting in what evolutionary psychologists call “assortative mating” (birds of a feather flock together).
In contrast to authenticity, individuals that score high on The Dark Triad of narcissism, Machiavellian intelligence, and psychopathy tend to play hard to get and suffer poor long-term relational outcomes. Nevertheless, in the short-term playing hard to get may work if it incites more interest (i.e. makes one more popular) and leads to more casual sexual hook-ups.
Personalities can be attractive or unattractive depending upon people’s preferences. Just like individuals have sexual preferences, individuals also have personality preferences. In general, because of assortative mating, individuals are attracted to individuals with personalities like themselves. As a consequence, authentic people are attracted to other authentic people and are turned off by people that seem fake (i.e. inauthentic).
Similarly, people who play hard to get are attracted to people like themselves because people who play games find it exciting to win the game. They get off on the rush of conquest so that people who are too straightforward are boring and if people are too open about their insecurities, they don’t possess the allure of the supremely self-confident.
Our Dating Profile as a Mating Strategy
Online dating poses a challenge for authentic individuals. Authenticity in relationships requires two elements: 1) A willingness to expose emotional vulnerability to have a more emotionally intimate relationship despite the risk of rejection for such exposure and 2) The unacceptability of deception.
Does one create an online dating profile that is completely honest, though it might turn off certain individuals if it advertises our genuine needs and personal limitations? Do women post a photograph that is current, given many men’s preference for youthful beauty? Do men portray their professional success accurately, given many women’s preference for men with status and resources?
Online dating offers ample opportunity to cultivate a false self that reflects an idealized version of ourselves that we think will be more alluring than our real selves. The basic dating strategy is to attract as much interest as we can on the basis of this idealized version of ourselves. Then we can pick the best of the bunch. Hopefully, by the time our dating partner gets to know our real self, warts and all, they will be too attached to break up with us despite the deception and the consequent buyer’s remorse.
The problem with presenting an overly idealized version of oneself to attract a lot of interest is that, due to assortative mating, it is likely to attract a lot of individuals just like oneself, individuals who are also marketing an overly idealized image of themselves that panders to wishful thinking. It will attract individuals playing the same game, so that in choosing the best of the bunch one may have been had. One may have been seduced into picking the biggest fake of the bunch.
As a result, two fake people are attracted to each other on the basis of false pretenses. Once they begin to realize that they have been played for a fool, the relationship begins to get ugly as both feel humiliated and bitter from having been duped.
Go for Quality Over Quantity
A more authentic approach to online dating results in a different experience. You’re not going to be that popular because your honesty and straightforwardness will be a turn off to those attracted to bright and shiny objects that seem too good to be true.
Don’t take it personally and feel badly about being unpopular. Your online profile is working as a screening device to turn off all the fake, gameplaying, and superficial individuals that you wouldn’t want for a long-term partner anyway.
You are looking for a needle in a haystack, that one special person that can appreciate the real you. In addition, that person is likely to possess what you want in a long-term partner: someone who is deep rather than superficial, genuine rather than fake, honest rather than deceitful, straightforward rather than gameplaying.
This is the kind of person you can trust and with whom you can have emotional intimacy. So yes, being authentic will expose you to a lot of rejection. But you will get rejected by the kind of people you don’t really want as a long-term partner anyhow, so don’t take it personally. In the end you will eventually attract exactly what you were looking for in a long-term partner.
Don’t Be Naïve and Let Wishful Thinking Cloud Your Better Judgment
Authentic individuals do have an emotional vulnerability that they have to watch out for. Since authentic individuals are honest in their self-presentation, they tend to naively assume that other people are also being honest. That is a faulty assumption, as being fake and gameplaying is much more common than authentic individuals often realize.
As a consequence, authentic individuals can be duped if they take the idealized self-presentation of gameplaying individuals at face value and therefore take it personally when they are rejected or mistreated by people that on the surface seemed like good catches. It’s hard to appreciate that such successfully gameplaying individuals aren’t such good catches.
In fact, authentic individuals are lucky to have dodged a bullet when rejected by fake and gameplaying individuals. Sometimes getting dumped by the wrong person is the best thing that can happen to you if your better judgment has been clouded by naivety and wishful thinking.
The wrong person did you a big favor in rejecting you because they freed you to do better with someone else who is a more genuine person. So “be yourself” in online dating and look for someone who is as authentic as you are.
Josephs, L. (2018) The Dynamics of Infidelity: Applying Relationship Science to Psychotherapy Practice. American Psychological Assocation: Washington, D.C.