Once stigmatized as a venue for the desperate, online dating has become a normal part of the mating game. A recent survey of 19, people who married between and found that 35 percent of these new couples met online, with about half of those meeting through an online dating site Cacioppo et al.
How can these sites help you find romance, and what pitfalls should you be aware of? Access to more people and more types of people. The most obvious benefit of these websites is that they provide easy access to thousands of potential dates.
In addition to the sheer number of people you can meet, many sites provide an avenue for meeting like-minded people. There are dating sites devoted to particular religious groups, like Christian Mingle or JDate, for example, as well as sites that cater to gay and lesbian daters.
You know where people stand. Unlike other social venues, on an online dating site, you can be fairly certain that everyone you meet is single and looking. This removes a lot of the ambiguity that you face when you meet an interesting person at a work event or a party. You can break free from traditional gender roles. Because of the ease and relative anonymity of online dating sites, we may take more risk reaching out to people we would not approach in person.
It can be good for shy people. Research suggests that those who are socially anxious Green, or introverted Amichai-Hamburger et al. These individuals may have an easier time approaching people and opening up online.
Many of the cons are the flip side of the pros Too many options can be a bad thing. As discussed, one benefit of online dating sites is access to hundreds, even thousands of potential mates—but having all those options is not always a great thing. The same principle applies to online dating: The sheer number of potential partners creates abundant choice. But this can also lead you to pass up on potential dates because with all those options, you can't help but think, "There must be someone better out there.
Profiles provide limited information. Online profiles are missing vital information you can only glean in person Finkel et al. Research shows that people spend their time on dating sites searching criteria such as income and education , and physical attributes like height and body type, when what they really need is information about the actual experience of interacting with and getting to know the person on the other end of the profile Frost et al.
One study of online daters found that most viewed each other as less similar, and liked each other less, after than before their offline dates Norton et al. The sites can put too much focus on physical attractiveness. It is well documented that physical attractiveness is a major factor in romantic attraction , especially initial attraction Sprecher, Not surprisingly, physically attractive people are more successful at online dating Hitsch et al.
There's pressure for things to turn romantic quickly. One benefit of online dating is that you know those on the site are single and looking, which reduces ambiguity.
But this also creates pressure quickly to turn your online connection into something romantic, rather than letting romantic feelings develop more slowly. This is only exacerbated by the emphasis on physical attractiveness created by online dating profiles.
Romantic relationships often do develop slowly, rather than taking off from instant mutual attraction. In my own analysis of this data, I examined the age at which survey respondents met their current partner and compared this to the age at which they became romantically involved, to get a rough sense of how long it took couples to go from first meeting to a romantic relationship.
I found that those who met their partners via online dating sites became romantically involved significantly sooner an average of two-and-a-half months than those who met in other ways an average of one-and-a-half years. It could become a crutch. As mentioned earlier, those who are introverted or shy may find online dating more palatable than other ways of looking for love. For more on misconceptions about online dating, read my post on 4 Myths about Online Dating.
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