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How to Find Love Online Without Sacrificing Your Values

Your psychological guide to digital dating.

Key points

  • Recognize dating apps as marketplaces, but avoid dehumanizing others
  • Showcase your best traits but stay true to yourself to foster genuine connections.
  • Share limited personal information; maintain safety and manage expectations.
  • View each interaction as a learning opportunity to refine your dating approach.

If you are confused by the world of online dating, you are not alone. Many of us have turned to dating apps to find that special someone. But let's face it, trying not to get lost in endless swipes can be tricky. Our research on value conflict in online dating shows that part of the challenge we face is due to users often having quite different understandings of what constitutes the value of their online dating experience. When these ideas are not aligned, it can sometimes lead to frustration and disappointment.

So how can you make sure to make the most out of your online dating experience? I've got some practical tips to help you.

Understand the Market Logic, but See the Real People

First things first: An online dating platform works a lot like a marketplace. People are often treated like products, and it's easy to get caught up in this mindset. Sociologist Eva Illouz suggests that the price of modern love is the loss of its association with moral virtue and stability, but this trade-off provides us with better control, self-knowledge, and gender equality. While dating apps emphasize choice and personal preference, don’t forget about honesty, kindness, and respect. Treat others with the same consideration you expect. This can lead to more meaningful connections and reduce negative behaviors like ghosting or dishonesty. Balancing your own needs with consideration for others can help create a more respectful and enjoyable online dating experience. Sometimes it makes sense to push against the service design that promotes the commodification of potential partners by remembering that even if you are not looking for a long-term connection, it is worth treating people you meet with dignity and respect.

Be Your (Best) Self

Whether we want it or not, when we put ourselves out there online, we inadvertently turn ourselves into a public commodity available for consumption by others. It is tempting to present a polished, perfect version of yourself online. While it is great to showcase your best traits, it is still important to be authentic. Overly curated profiles can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment when you meet in person. Aligning your online presentation with your true self can help create more genuine interactions. Strike a balance: Be yourself because that’s who you want your future partner to fall for.

Set Clear Boundaries

Setting and maintaining clear boundaries is key to a positive online dating experience. Decide how much personal information you’re comfortable sharing and stick to it. Keeping your interactions within the app at first can provide a sense of safety and control. This way, you can easily disengage if things don’t feel right. Clear boundaries help protect your emotional well-being and manage expectations, which is crucial given the impersonal nature of online encounters.

Develop Heuristics for Evaluation

We all know there’s potential for misrepresentation online, so it’s helpful to develop personal rules for evaluating profiles. For example, look for inconsistencies in what people say and do, and be cautious with anyone who seems evasive or secretive. Such simple rules can help manage the uncertainties that arise in online dating. As you gain experience, you’ll refine these rules and become better at spotting red flags.

Embrace a Learning Mindset

Think of online dating as a learning curve: Each interaction, whether it leads to a date or not, teaches you something valuable about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner. Instead of getting frustrated, see each step as a chance for refining your communication strategy. This mindset can transform the whole experience into a more positive one, helping you balance the different types of value you find in dating.

Manage Expectations

Managing your expectations is crucial. With so many options, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to find the perfect person right away. Understand that not every interaction will lead to a deep connection, and that’s okay. Keeping a positive outlook can help you stay motivated and enjoy the process. This approach will help you manage the overwhelming choices offered by dating apps.

Be Aware of Safety Concerns

Online dating can come with its share of risks, so be vigilant. Meet in public places, let friends or family know where you’ll be, and be cautious with your personal information. If someone’s behavior seems off, trust your instincts and report it to the platform administrators. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Our research shows that the impersonal nature of online interactions makes certain people perceive them as disembedded from real life and its consequences, akin to a videogame in which you don’t care much what happens to other characters. This can increase the risk of bad behavior, so always prioritize your safety.

Jumping into online dating can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and find meaningful connections. Stay safe, keep a learning mindset, and most importantly, have fun.

Facebook image: Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock


Minina, A., Masè, S., & Smith, J. (2022). Commodifying love: value conflict in online dating. Journal of Marketing Management, 38 (1–2), 98–126.

Illouz, E. (1997). Consuming the romantic utopia: Love and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Univ of California Press.

Illouz, E. (2007). Cold intimacies: The making of emotional capitalism. Polity.

Bauman, Z. (2013). Liquid love: On the frailty of human bonds. John Wiley & Sons.

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