Change Your Approach to Online Dating
You are the key to online dating success.
Posted Sep 01, 2020
I have written several posts about the benefits and drawbacks to online dating, and even a post discussing the importance of self-awareness prior to pursuing a match. With those in mind, I would like to impart some online dating advice: to feel successful, change the way you view the process.
Too often people have approached me completely distraught that the person they spent months writing countless emails to, turned out to be a terrible match. They lamented the fact that they wasted their time and energy and would have rather been spending time with family or friends, or devoting their energy to other potential matches. While I know that this is easier said than done, approaching the dating process in a different manner can help quite a bit.
Many sites use algorithms to help select matches for you. While these can certainly help in presenting you with, and connecting you to people similar to you, they cannot predict relationship longevity or success. Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reist, and Sprecher (2012) note in their article examining whether or not online dating has changed the landscape of courtship, “Regarding matching, no compelling evidence supports machine sites’ claims that mathematical algorithms work—that they foster romantic outcomes that are superior to those fostered by other means of paring partners” (p. 3). Additionally, research by Joel, Eastwick, and Finkel (2017) examining machine learning, has shown that while algorithms can predict the tendency to like and be liked by others, they aren’t successful in predicting compatibility.
My best advice for online dating is to relax and enjoy the process (yes, easier said than done, I know). Approaching each date as the “be all end all” can be problematic. Even if we answer all of the quizzes, trust in the algorithms, and get to know a person via email prior to meeting, there is something above and beyond what the numbers and email/text exchanges can predict that occurs when two people meet and interact with one another.
You will win some and feel like you lose some, but that's what you need to re-frame (the feeling like you're losing part). If you approach the dates as a get-to-know-you situation, rather than “I will be meeting the person I will wind up with for the rest of my life,” you will relieve some of the pressure (and be able to present your best self, rather than the you overcome with anxiety), learn to enjoy the process a bit, and avoid the all-too-familiar dating fatigue.
Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66.
Joel, S., Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2017). Is romantic desire predictable? Machine learning applied to initial romantic attraction. Psychological Science, 28(10), 1478-1489.