But there are certain properties of online dating that actually work against love-seekers, the researchers found, making it no more effective than traditional dating for finding a happy relationship.“There is no reason to believe that online dating improves romantic outcomes,” says Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at University of Rochester and one of the study’s co-authors.
“You can’t look at a piece of paper and know what it’s like to interact with someone,” says Reis.
“Picking a partner is not the same as buying a pair of pants.” (MORE: Online Dating Enjoying a Boom Among Boomers) Making things harder, many sites now depend on — and heavily market — their supposedly scientific formulas for matching you with your soul mate based on similar characteristics or personality types.
Most people cite attractiveness as key to a potential romantic connection when surveying profiles online, but once people meet face to face, it turns out that physical appeal doesn’t lead to more love connections for those who say it is an important factor than for those who say it isn’t.
Once potential partners meet, in other words, other characteristics take precedence over the ones they thought were important.
“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 downside to Internet dating has to do with one of its defining characteristics: the profile.
In the real world, it takes days or even weeks for the mating dance to unfold, as people learn each other’s likes and dislikes and stumble through the awkward but often rewarding process of finding common ground.
And, importantly, does it lead to more successful romantic relationships? Let Me Tweet the Ways) For their 64-page report, the authors reviewed more than 400 studies and surveys on the subject, delving into questions such as whether scientific algorithms — including those used by sites like e Harmony, Perfect Match and Chemistry to match people according to similarities — can really lead to better and more lasting relationships (no); whether the benefits of endless mate choices online have limits (yes); and whether communicating online by trading photos and emails before meeting in person can promote stronger connections (yes, to a certain extent).
Overall, the study found, Internet dating is a good thing, especially for singles who don’t otherwise have many opportunities to meet people.
“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.” The authors also found that the sheer number of candidates that some sites provide their love-seeking singles — which can range from dozens to hundreds — can actually undermine the process of finding a suitable mate.
The fact that candidates are screened via their profiles already sets up a judgmental, “shopping” mentality that can lead people to objectify their potential partners.
It also means that b) people may unknowingly skip over potential mates for the wrong reasons.