When it comes to online dating, we tend to think that having more options is a plus for finding the right relationship.
But, according to Brad Browning, a relationship counselor and dating coach from Vancouver, a bigger pool of potential mates can actually make it more difficult to find a partner.
More options leads people to think “that finding a soul mate is simply a matter of filtering through the candidates.” This is known as “tyranny of choice,” a phenomenon where people prematurely abandon promising relationships because they know they can find plenty of other potential partners online, said Browning.
Another downside to dating sites is shaky matchmaking tools. For instance, eHarmony requires users to complete a survey with 436 questions. The site then uses an algorithm to match up potential mates. But these questions don’t capture the information that actually predicts successful relationships, Browning said.
He cited social psychologist and researcher Eli Finkel at Northwestern University, who said: “the algorithms seek to predict long-term romantic compatibility from characteristics of the two partners before they meet. Yet the strongest predictors of relationship well-being, such as a couple’s interaction style and ability to navigate stressful circumstances, cannot be assessed with such data.”
Here, Finkel also said of algorithms: “Limiting the number of potential partners is only helpful if the algorithmic-selection process favors compatible partners over incompatible ones, which it fails to do. Even if the algorithms are cutting 2,000 potential partners down to five, if that process is random, is it really any better than strolling into the neighborhood bar?”
In short, matchmaking surveys seem to be “more effective at deterring casual, uncommitted users than they are at determining compatibility between two singles,” Browning said.
Other disadvantages of online dating include dealing with dishonest users and even scammers and having to disclose personal information, he said.
Of course, dating sites also offer numerous advantages. For instance, they’re convenient options for busy professionals or people who don’t have opportunities to meet singles anywhere else, he said.
Below, Browning, also a senior editor at LoveLearnings.com, shares how you can make online dating work for you.
1. Have realistic expectations.
Avoid signing up for a dating site with the expectation of finding your soul mate, Browning said. It may take months to find a meaningful relationship, along with having several awkward first dates, he said. “If you’re willing to be patient and you have realistic expectations, then Internet dating can definitely lead to positive results.”
2. Be skeptical.
“Some people will be less than honest when filling out personal details, so you may want to exchange a few emails or phone calls before meeting someone in person to avoid surprises or disappointments,” Browning said.
3. Pay for a subscription.
Subscription fees, Browning said, tend to “weed out scammers, sleazebags, and those looking for a one-night stand rather than meaningful relationship.” Plus, he noted that paid websites tend to have higher success rates and users who are more serious about finding a relationship.
4. Pick sites with your specific parameters.
If you have certain preferences, such as finding a partner who’s Christian or Jewish, find a dating site that fulfills these requirements, Browning said. Also, pick a site that includes many singles in your area, he said.
5. Write an honest profile.
Many people, particularly men, “tend to do a poor job of filling out their profile information,” Browning said. But honesty, not surprisingly, is the best policy. Even if people believe your fibs, falsehoods or exaggerations at first, they’re going to be pretty frustrated when they find out you’re not who you said you are.
6. Meet in person after a few online or phone interactions.
It’s a common mistake to spend too much time emailing or talking on the phone with people you meet online, Browning said. While a few back and forth interactions are helpful, having your first face-to-face date after months is probably not a good idea. “[T]here’s a good chance you’re going to feel like you’ve wasted your time.”
Online dating has both downsides and upsides. Being realistic, honest, skeptical and mindful of what you’re looking for can help you in finding potential mates.
Browning also explores finding love online in this piece on Love Learnings.