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Can online dating lead to lasting love?
That was back in 2004, when turning to your computer to meet a man was – in my circles at least – regarded as something of a failure, and admitting to posting your profile on RSVP or Yahoo! Personals could leave you the laughing stock.
Fast forward nearly ten years and, today it seems, everyone is doing it. Gone is any shroud of stigma and, if you believe the statistics, an estimated one in five couples meet online. Whilst I still laugh at the consequences of my own online dating endeavours, today, Internet dating is serious business.
But is it any more successful – or any more destined for disaster – than the other kind of dating? You know, the kind we all used to enjoy back in the ’90s when you meet someone you like in a bar/club/cafe/at work and, well, the rest is history. One group of researchers set out to find the answer.
Published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, the 64 page report included a review of more than 400 studies and surveys on the subject of online dating, and tackled questions such as whether or not the mathematical algorithms used by sites such as eHarmony to match couples can really lead to better, longer lasting matches. Whilst the overall conclusion to this question was no, the study did reveal that, to a certain extent, communicating online through the trade of photos and emails can forge stronger relationships.
No time? Turn to online
For me, the decision to venture into the virtual world in order to seek a mate was born from the fact I just didn’t have time to meet anyone. At the time, a career in event management meant I was likely to be in Athens one month, the US the next – normally alone. The ability to log in online no matter what time zone I was in was therefore appealing.
Indeed, the study found that online dating greatly benefits singles who don’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet many people. Whether working abroad, or unable to engage fully in the dating scene due to financial constraints, the sheer number of people within any online dating network means you’ll be able to meet many more people than you otherwise could. Whether or not those people are a compatible match is another question.
The downsides of digital dating
According to the study, back in 2005 (by which time I’d already parted ways with my own Internet dating profile), just three per cent of Americans reported meeting their partners online. Just two years later and this had already jumped to 22 per cent of heterosexual couples and six per cent for same sex couples. Whilst meeting through friends is, today, the most common way for couples to meet, digital dating comes in a close second.
However, professor of psychology at University of Rochester and one of the study’s co-authors, Harry Reis, believes online dating has its downsides and, as such, is no more prone to success than traditional dating. ‘There is no reason to believe that online dating improves romantic outcomes,’ he says. ‘It may yet, and someday some service might provide good data to show it can, but there is certainly no evidence to that right now.’
One of these downsides is the profile. As the researchers point out in the study, it can take weeks, if not months to get to know someone’s defining characteristics and, whilst this is sometimes awkward, it is also ultimately rewarding. Online, and the courtship is boiled down to a headline, description and list of likes and dislikes that you believe will ‘sell’ yourself best. Whilst you might be successful in attracting someone who clamours to the traits you’ve chosen to display, the researchers point out you might also be missing out on attracting someone even more compatible.
The characteristics and preferences you choose for your profile also help the algorithms going on in the background match you with potential mates – something the study also looked at. I don’t know about you, but much as I love shopping, I’m not altogether enthralled by the prospect of attracting someone with a similar passion for fashion.
‘Interaction is a rich and complex process,’ says Reis. ‘A partner is another human being, who has his or her own needs, wishes and priorities, and interacting with them can be a very, very complex process for which going through a list of characteristics isn’t useful.’
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that, just like anything on the Internet, if you use online dating wisely, it can be a great advantage when it comes to finding that perfect partner.
Tell us about your experience of online dating? Have you any success stories or dating disasters? Do you believe it can lead to lasting love?
About the Author
Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.