You’ve been online dating for a while now, and it seems there is plenty of fish in the sea — but only a few are worth trying to hook. Does online dating really work? Can you find love with online dating? To help you answer those questions, we’ve looked at what research says about whether or not online dating is a viable way of finding love.
Online Dating in 2021
Internet dating platforms are abundant. You’ve got Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Facebook Dating, Hinge — and these are just the big ones. Tens of other platforms cater to more niche tastes. With so many options, it’s evident that there’s lots of interest in dating platforms.
All of them supposedly elevate your dating experience, allowing for a wide selection of potential dates without the awkwardness of meeting a stranger for the first time only to find out that you’ve got nothing to talk about. The question is whether online dating in 2021 can lead you to long-lasting love. Well, let’s first consider the main pros and cons of online dating.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of online dating is that research data suggests that this is a viable way of finding a partner, even for a long-term relationship. Between 2015 and 2019, a third of the UK’s relationships began online, with projections for this number to rise to 50% by 2035, according to eHarmony and Imperial College London research.
As opposed to chasing love in “the real world,“ dating on the web is often the only practical option for busy people. It is also quite convenient to have a large pool of potential dates in the palm of your hand.
With internet dating platforms, you have more control over who you communicate with, what you talk about and how much you are willing to invest in this person. If things aren’t getting anywhere, you can always drop them and move on.
Some online dating apps use algorithms to supposedly find better matches for their users. A 2012 study casts shadows on the effectiveness of these algorithms, concluding a lack of evidence that such algorithms are better than traditional methods of finding a suitable partner. Ten years have passed since the study came out, so these models might’ve become better or might’ve not. Whichever it is, on the plus side, these questionnaires give you more information about the person on the other side (provided they are honest, of course).
You can be strategic about it
Dating on the internet allows you to be more strategic than if you were doing it IRL. Because you have more time to make decisions and there’s less pressure to react to situations on the spot as when they arise during a face-to-face date.
Not a big surprise, huh?! For the most part, dating apps focus on users’ looks, creating a bias towards matching based on looks only. In fact, a study from June this year found that physical appearance is the main factor when online dating app users decide whether to swipe “left” or “right”.
Online dating users vary greatly in why they are using such platforms. Some are just browsing, others are looking “for the one”, yet there are others who are simply looking for a one night thing… This can create a roller-coaster of emotions if you excitingly match someone only to find out you are not on the same page purpose-wise.
Susceptible to bias
Making a choice that is mainly based on looks leaves a lot of room for bias that can stay in the way of finding an otherwise compatible partner.
Oh, the dread. One of the worst disadvantages of internet dating is that people may intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent themselves or, worse, create a certain fantasy about your internet companion. You can only find a completely different reality when you meet IRL.
The fast-paced medium that is dating platforms is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it allows you to quickly move on to the next potential match. On the other hand, conversations usually die off quickly, and the overall swiftness of online dating predisposes to making rushed decisions.
Online Dating Psychology 101
Now that we covered the main advantages and disadvantages of dating on the web, let’s see what science has to say on the topic. How does online dating affect our minds? How to maximise our chances of finding someone worthwhile? Can we recognise and weed out the bad apples?
First, let’s not forget that dating apps are built to keep you glued to them for as long as a possible partner. Like any other social networking platform, they tap into the internal reward system that makes us want more and more of the things that give us pleasure. This is why many people have a love-hate relationship with dating apps, constantly deleting them and reinstalling them. There are also many studies on how online dating affects users’ mental health, particularly those with social anxiety, but that’s a topic for another time.
So, can you still do online dating and keep your head level and clear? Well, you could if you follow some tips:
- Be authentic — presenting yourself in the most realistic light will save you a lot of trouble down the road. At least you’ll know that your future date will be going out with you for you and not for some fake persona that you made up to fish for likes.
- Be transparent — this means being clear with both yourself and the people you meet on those apps. Decide on why you are online dating, then make sure that you communicate it unambiguously. If you are looking for a serious relationship, be clear about it early on.
- Have a boundary — we already mentioned that online dating can be addictive, playing on the brain’s pleasure systems. There is nothing wrong with getting some feel-good hormones. Still, too much of them can lead to an actual addiction and subsequent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. So, have some boundaries with how much you use dating platforms.
- Work on your communication skills — effective communication is a skill that is rare nowadays but in high demand. By working on your communication skills, you’ll better express your needs and understand your match/date.
- Keep it cool and patient — if you treat online dating as a marathon rather than a sprint, you might have a better experience with it. You could meet someone from the first swipe or after several months, so don’t rush. Also, keep your cool. The fewer expectations you build, the less chance for disappointment.
Finally, is there a science-backed way to weed out the people that just aren’t a good fit, and especially those with insincere intentions? The world would’ve been a much better place If there was a fail-proof method to do either of these things. Still, there are some things that you can do to level up on your positive experiences with online dating. Every major dating platform has a Resources section where you can read tips on making a better profile and keeping safe on the app. Read them! You can also follow some common-sense advice like:
- Do not disclose sensitive personal information.
- Stay alert about questionable things like the other person asking you for money, graphic photos, sensitive personal info, or clicking on suspicious links.
- Use different photos for your dating app and social media accounts to minimise the chance that someone will snoop around without your permission.
- It might sound hypocritical after the previous point, but if you can, check up on the social media profiles of your matches to see if their story checks out. Still not a 100% guarantee, though.
- If it comes to an actual date, set it up in a public place where you’ll feel safe. Better if you also tell someone about your date: where, when, and with whom you are meeting. Stay-safe tip: if you are in a bar, restaurant or a similar venue and you feel threatened, you can ask an employee for “Angela,” a code-word for when you feel in danger. “Ask for Angela’’ is a campaign to help women in vulnerable situations ask for help without exposing themselves. Read more about it here.
With all of the above, what can we conclude about finding love online? The best answer is that you can absolutely find the love of your life on a dating site. Many people have, and many more will do. If you want to be among the people that have found love through online dating, you need to be proactive about it. While you look for the love of your life online, you can feel better about being single by reading about what to do if you are feeling lonely.
Written by Krasimir Ivanov
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