As a kid, I once heard my older sister say to her friend, "Shall I go out with this guy because he has a car, that guy because he has money, or some other guy because he makes me laugh?" Lucky her! Rarely are we presented with the luxury of several such date choices at the same time. In real life, we generally meet potential dates one at a time, and make a decision on whether we like them or not. However, online dating sites offer people access to a vast number of potential matches, each of whom are likely to vary across an array of physical and personality characteristics. Further, the potential dates are presented more or less simultaneously.
While on its face, such an abundance of choice may seem appealing, the sheer number of people presented can often turn out to be problematic.
First, when attempting to choose from numerous items at the same time, we tend to make our decisions in different ways. Engaging in comparative evaluations as on dating sites, we prioritize different qualities, as opposed to when we make a judgment on one individual as is most often the case in face-to-face interaction. Second, when we are asked to select one from a large set of items, as on online dating sites, we tend to employ less cognitively taxing (lazier) decision making strategies. The consequences are that we may make imprudent choices, assessing individuals on characteristics and attributes that are ultimately irrelevant to determining relationship satisfaction.
For those considering online dating, here are five simple tips to follow in order to maximize your chances of procuring a successful match. "Successful" here means meeting someone with whom you can have a sustained and meaningful relationship. The suggestions are drawn from a paper by Finkel et al (2012):
Online dating can take time and effort, leaving less time to engage in real life social interaction. Mitchell (2009) noted that online daters spend an average of 22 minutes each time they visit an online dating site; Frost, Chance, Norton, and Ariely (2008) observed that daters spend 12 hours per week engaged in computer-based dating activity. It may take some time to find the "right" person using online dating; therefore we shouldn’t take early failure personally or give up too easily. If we accept that online dating can take time, and follow the above guidance, then our online dating endeavors can be more successful.
Finkel, E. J.,Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., and Sprecher, S. (2012), ‘Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science’ Psychological Science in the Public Interest 13 (1) 3 –66.
Frost, J. H., Chance, Z., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2008). ‘People are experience goods: Improving online dating with virtual dates.’ Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22, 51–61.
Mitchell, R. L. (2009). Online dating: Analyzing the algorithms of attraction. PCWorld. Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/1598842/online_dating_analyzing_the_algor... attraction.html