Meeting Your Match Online

The pros and cons of the digital world of dating.

Posted May 01, 2020

Courtesy of Pixabay
Source: Courtesy of Pixabay

Online dating can be a polarizing experience. While some people are excited to explore who is out there and meet potential partners, others approach the process with a great deal of trepidation. Based on data collected in 2016 from the Pew Research Center, online dating has largely lost the stigma associated with it and 5% of married or committed individuals have met online (Smith & Anderson, 2016). This number, as well as the amount of dating sites available, are on the rise.

While dating fatigue—or the burnout people experience as a result of spending too much time swiping and chatting without success—may occur, I still encourage people to keep their apps running even if only in the background. Using this more approach enables them to take a break from a process that may be causing stress while still remaining open to meeting people who join the site during the time in which they are taking their breather. Even though the process can be tiring, and we may wind up on some less than stellar dates, I am a huge proponent of online dating.

Below I list some of the benefits and drawbacks to digitally meeting your match. Happy dating!

Pros

1. Access to a larger network of people

  • Online dating can be very helpful in that it provides people with access to potential partners that they otherwise might not meet in real life. If you live in a small town or feel as if you don’t necessarily “fit in,” you are able to reach people from across the country, or world, to find those who share your interests and passions. Even without traversing the globe, you may meet a person who lives around the corner but whose path you were never fortunate enough to cross. Bottom line: Online dating gives you access to more people and expands your networks.

2. Ability to meet people who have the same goal: to find relationships

  • Online sites provide us with access to people who presumably want to be in a relationship as well. This takes a lot of the guesswork out, especially when trying to figure out if the person at the bar you are chatting with is single or not. Online dating dramatically increases the pool of eligible partners for those interested in finding a mate. Be careful, because as listed under the next section, just as people may lie in person, they can also lie online; not everyone you meet will have accurately represented themselves.

3. Better vetting process

  • Online dating enables you to communicate before meeting in person. This allows you to check off certain boxes on the site/app and potentially remove people that you would not want to form a relationship with. You can essentially vet people before meeting them in person. Online dating also allows you to screen hundreds of applicants much quicker than you could in real life. You are able to filter by job, financial status, religion, ethnicity, etc., giving you more control of the dating situation than if you were set up by friends. Use caution with this because you don’t want to narrow your dating field too much and miss out on some wonderful people just because they don’t check a certain item off your list. Really be sure that your list of non-negotiables is reasonable and not too rigid.  

4. Greater flexibility

  • Online dating allows for a great deal of flexibility. In a society in which we are often too busy to take a break, and instead opt for “working lunches,” online dating allows us to “meet” people without leaving home or the office.

Cons

1. Dating Fatigue

  • Many people may get fatigued by the process or become jaded. After a while, some people note that online dating becomes a job, as they are trying to get through as many profiles (or setting up as many dates) as possible. Some people may go on several dates a week, forgoing plans with friends or family in order to continue the search for a romantic partner. If they go out on a string of bad dates, they may start to feel disheartened and even annoyed by the process and amount of time that they perceive they have wasted.

2. Too much choice

  • Contrary to popular belief, too many options may present a problem. Research has shown that when we have large samples, we may have trouble ignoring irrelevant information (Wu & Chiou, 2009). When presented with large online dating pool samples, participants spent more time searching through the profiles and had more difficulty screening out inferior options (Wu & Chiou, 2009). This is related to the “paradox of choice,” which notes that having too much choice makes it more difficult to come to a final decision (Schwartz, & Ward, 2004). Basically, the more choice you have, the harder it is to select an option.

3. Insert troubling dating lingo here

  • Ghosting/orbiting/yo-yo dating/(insert your online dating term here) is also problematic, though these behaviors aren’t necessarily relegated to online dating. It seems as if every day there’s new lingo to describe bad dating behaviors, however, these behaviors are not necessarily new. Let’s use ghosting, in which a person you’ve been talking to disappears without a trace, as an example. While the name is new(ish), the act itself is not. Ghosting appears to be more pervasive due to the public nature of online dating and the potential for oversharing on social media. As more and more people are meeting one another via online dating, the way in which we meet has shifted. Many daters are contacting several people at any given time, as online communication is easier and may require less effort. When the individual gets to the point of selecting one particular partner, he/she leaves behind, or potentially ghosts, the others. As a result of dating multiple people at any given time, people may view the relationship as less serious and may not feel bad about ghosting.

4. Deception

  • Deception does occur on dating websites. Hancock, Toma, and Ellison (2013) examined the heights, weights, and ages people posted on their online dating profiles. They found that lying occurred on at least one of the three variables in 81% of the cases they examined, indicating that it was in fact quite frequent. However, the magnitude of the deception for each of the variables was small, meaning that even upon meeting, these lies would be difficult to ascertain. The results also demonstrated that the online daters’ estimations of their height, weight, and age were correlated to the deviations between their profile and actual numbers. This means that the lies were intentional; the participants knew that they were lying, and it wasn’t a matter of them having an inaccurate view of themselves.

References

Hancock, J. T., Toma, C., & Ellison, N. (2007, April). The truth about lying in online dating profiles. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 449-452). ACM.

Schwartz, B., & Ward, A. (2004). Doing better but feeling worse: The paradox of choice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (86-104). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Smith, A. & Anderson, M.  (2016). 5 facts about online dating. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/5-facts-about-online-dating/

Wu, P. L., & Chiou, W. B. (2009). More options lead to more searching and worse choices in finding partners for romantic relationships online: An experimental study. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(3), 315-318.