AdinaVoicu/pixabay
Source: AdinaVoicu/pixabay

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and conventional wisdom both suggest that love is a fundamental human need. Most people meet their significant others through their social circles or work/school functions. However, these pools can be relatively shallow. In the search for a potential date, more and more people are switching to less traditional methods.

Online dating is really popular. Using the internet is really popular. A survey conducted in 2013 found that 77% of people considered it “very important” to have their smartphones with them at all times. With the rise and rise of apps like Tinder (and the various copycat models) who could blame them.  If you want to think about dating as a numbers game (and apparently many people do), you could probably swipe left/right between 10 – 100 times in the span of time that it would take you to interact with one potential date in ‘real-life’.

With the popularity of sites like eHarmony, match.com, OKcupid  and literally thousands of similar others, the stigma of online dating has diminished considerably in the last decade. More and more of us insist on outsourcing our love-lives to spreadsheets and algorithms. According to the Pew Research Center, the overwhelming majority of Americans suggest that online dating is a good way to meet people. Interestingly, more than 15% of adults say that they have used either mobile dating apps or an online dating site at least once in the past. Online dating services are now the second most popular way to meet a partner.

The popularity of online dating is being driven by several things but a major factor is time. Online dating presents an effective solution to a serious problem.

Browsing profiles isn’t nearly as time-consuming (or daunting) as mixing with people in a social context. Statistics suggest that about 1 in 5 relationships begin online nowadays. It’s estimated that by 2040, 70% of us will have met our significant other online.

The problem with a lot of online dating applications is that they don’t really work. Many are just ‘fad’ applications that squeeze money from punters with no intention of matching you with a suitable partner. Before you throw caution to the wind and empty your wallet into the pockets of an online app with the reckless abandon of a love-struck teenager, there are a few things you should know.

1. People lie on their online dating profiles

Ok this is hardly an earth-shattering revelation. Well duh, people want to be appealing. Most people probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s more common for people to lie in their online profile than be completely honest.

A study of over 1,000 online daters in the US and UK conducted by global research agency OpinionMatters founds some very interesting statistics. A total of 53% of US participants admitted to having lied in their online dating profile. Women apparently lied more than men, with the most common dishonesties being about looks. Over 20% of women posted photos of their younger selves. But men were only marginally better. Their most common lies revolved around their financial situation, specifically, about having a better job (financially) than they actually do. More than 40% of men indicated that they did this, but the tactic was also employed by nearly a third of women.

While dishonesty was slightly less prevalent among the British sample, 44% did admit to lying in their online profile. In both the US and UK samples, dishonesty declined with age. Maybe older people are just more interested in projecting their real self, rather than an imagined or ideal version.

2. Looking for a relationship? That must mean all you want is sex

One of the big problems with online dating for women is that, although there are genuine relationship-seeking men on the sites, there are also plenty of guys on there simply looking for sex. While most people would agree that on average men are more eager for sex than women, it seems that many men make the assumption that if a woman has an online dating presence, she’s interested in sleeping with relative strangers. Online dating does represent the convenience of being able to meet others that you possibly never would have otherwise, but women should be aware that they probably will receive rude/disgusting messages from horny guys, sexual propositions/requests, dick-pics, and a lot of creepy vibes.

3. Negotiating the scam-ternet

Let’s be honest, the internet is really just a super elaborate and sophisticated farce designed to distract you from having your pockets picked by greasy conmen in cheap suits, right? Not quite, but it is full of unscrupulous vendors looking to separate you from your money by whatever means possible (in other news, have you heard about the secret to getting killer abs in less than 7 minutes using this 1 weird trick…?).

Scams have been around as long as the internet (possibly even before…). Of course there are pitfalls and tripwires in every sphere of life, but this may be particularly true in the context of online dating. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of online scams, and I’m not going to run through any in detail here, but do some research before you go giving your bank details to ‘Nigerian princes’ promising ‘fun moments’. As a matter of fact, you should probably be wary of any person, group or entity asking for any kind of financial or personal information. It might even be advisable to follow these general guidelines:

Set up an anonymous email account from a widely used email service (I_heart_scamming123@gmail.com is already taken)

NEVER give out your home phone, address or your personal email address, unless you absolutely trust the recipient.

Drive yourself to the date (your date doesn’t need to know where you live), keep an eye on your drink/food (…), pay half of the bill (you don’t need your date having expectations of repayment)

Of course there are plenty more do’s and do not’s of online dating but I guess the most important thing here is to use your common sense. If something feels off, trust your got. You don’t necessarily have to develop a ‘trust no-one and sleep with 1 eye open’ approach to online dating, but it is probably worthwhile having a healthy degree of skepticism in general.

4. Relationships don’t last

Never mind the fact that more than one-third of all people who use online dating sites have never actually gone on a date with someone they met online, those that somehow do manage to find someone else they are willing to marry AND who is willing to marry them (a vanishingly tiny subset of online daters) face an uphill battle. According to research conducted at Michigan State University, relationships that start out online are 28% more likely to break down in their first year, than relationships where the couples first met face-to-face. And it gets worse. Couples who met online are nearly 3 times as likely to get divorced as couples that met face-to-face.

However, it isn’t all misery and woe. While the overwhelming majority of romantic relationships still begin offline, around 5% of Americans that are currently in either a committed relationship or marriage, suggest that they did in fact meet their significant other online.

5. It makes you picky and judgmental

It’s very easy to send one course back (or even one after another, after another, after another) when the menu is overflowing with other potential courses. The US Association of Psychological Science found that reviewing multiple candidates causes people to be more judgmental, and inclined to dismiss a not-quite-perfect candidate than they otherwise would be in a face-to-face meeting.

About the Author

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson, BSc, BPsych, is a psychologist and zoologist currently undertaking doctoral studies at James Cook University examining mate choice. 

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