Online Dating



Modern people looking for love go through phases… We post multiple profiles and go out on three dates a week. Then we unplug and hibernate, depleted by the mind numbing process of swiping right. We extol the virtues of a dating style where we can find others with the same quirks and kinks at the click of a button. Then we complain about how inaccurate profiles are when meeting a potential connection in real life.

Why is dating so different in a digital age?

Reason #1: The sheer amount of possibilities inundates us and quickly becomes addictive.

We’re up at one a.m. in pajamas messaging possible heart mates. We’re standing in the grocery line assessing twenty profiles in under a minute (or, let’s be honest, we’re judging their looks). Even in the great age of bar hopping for hook-ups, the quantity of possibilities never reached this crescendo. And every time we get a “wink” or find a sexy profile, a little hit of dopamine keeps us seeking.

Reason #2: There’s old school etiquette that hasn’t been reshaped for this brave new world.

Online dating isn’t like writing a love letter and dropping it in the mailbox, but that can be easy to forget. We put our hopes into each missive that gets hurled into cyberspace and feel rejected when there’s no response. Or we feel overwhelmed and a twinge guilty if WE are the ones fielding forty messages a day and can’t possibly reply to each one.

This pattern tends to be gendered, and that’s one factor that’s survived from traditional dating – men swipe right and initiate contact almost twice as often as women on most dating apps. This leaves men feeling dejected when no response comes back, causing them to double their efforts or give up. Meanwhile, women end up feeling like they’re wading through a sea of aggressive creeps to find a decent match.  (That’s why Bumble leaves it up to women to make contact.)

Reason #3: Why ARE profiles so inaccurate?

Yes, there are a certain amount of people posting photos when they were 50 pounds lighter or 30 years younger, but incongruent profiles aren’t just appearance.

We’ve all been on dates where the person seemed perfect on the screen and in the first 5 minutes of an actual date we were ready to leave. That’s because most of us are wildly off base when asked to describe ourselves. We choose to highlight aspects of our interests or personalities that we THINK someone else would like and which may not be completely true. (This is evidenced by the huge amount of “avid hikers” and “outdoor lovers” listed in Colorado. Sure, people move here for the scenery. But that one camping trip you took and spent the whole time stoned? It doesn’t mean you should put “survivalist” on your profile.)

Reason #4: Appearance centric thinking.

OkCupid found that both men and women tend to message people more attractive than themselves. Because the online experience is so looks focused, app users get caught up in trying to find a hot date.

If we meet for the first time in the real world, looks play a much smaller part in what draws us to someone and we’re more likely to be intimidated by a ridiculously attractive person. This is an area where we collectively get distracted from finding someone we actually want to spend time with and instead use dating apps like an idealistic wish list of surface traits.

What’s the takeaway?

Being able to pace yourself is a valuable tool to staying in the game.

Also, you’ll benefit from having a friend honestly tell you if how you’re presenting yourself online is accurate. You might get more matches with that over-filtered, flatteringly angled picture and a list of exciting interests. But if that’s not who you really are, you’re contributing to your own haze of digital noise and keeping yourself from meeting someone (or someones!) who are a whole lot of fun.