6 Reasons Why Online Dating Sucks And How To Cope

By Jenny Chang|Updated June 16, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Robin Brock , LISW

In the not-so-distant past, significant others encountered one another most commonly via local hangouts, at work, or through new or existing social circles. Modern dating has taken a sharp veer away from these dating avenues, and has instead encouraged many people to take to the internet in order to widen their dating pools and find prospective dates.

Is online dating truly as awful as it is often made out to be?

Online Dating’s Pitfalls

Online dating comes with a hefty list of both pros and cons. It may come as no surprise that as much as 40% of couples reported initially meeting online in a recent study released by Stanford University and University of New Mexico sociologists. At its inception, dating online was seen as strange, taboo, or even the realm of the truly desperate. Now, however, taking to your phone to computer to search for love—or brief companionship—is somewhat common and is an acceptable way to encounter a prospective partner.

While online dating may have made its way into cultural norms, it is still frequently regarded with some degree of distrust or uncertainty. For many, online dating comes with a new (and potentially confusing) set of rules in addition to the standard dating norms, which can make online dating feel difficult or uncomfortable. Communication patterns, dating etiquette, and expectations can all differ dramatically between online dating and meeting in person, which can make some people feel as though online dating is not worth the frustration and risk.

Plenty of people have found love online, but just as many others have been met with confusion and heartbreak. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with the uncertainty and pitfalls associated with online dating to minimize emotional fallout and online heartbreak.

Online Dating Can Be Overwhelming
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Despite having lost most of the stigma associated with it, online dating’s reputation has persisted as one that is fought with complications and even dangers. Some of these dangers have led the development of targeted apps such as Bumble, wherein a woman must be the first to initiate an interaction. Others have led to apps like Tinder, where a hookup may be more the norm than a long-term relationship. No matter the precise platform being used, dating apps and sites do share one thing: options. Online daters can browse from a veritable sea of people, combing through as many as 50 people in a matter of minutes and some swipes of a finger.

Perhaps in part due to the truly enormous number of people dating online, many consider the medium an ideal dating venue. One study indicated that as many as 1 in 5 couples in the UK meet online. It has even been predicted that as much as 70% of couples will have met online by the year 2040. The popularity of online dating—and its corresponding predictions—is usually attributed to two things: efficiency and convenience. Online dating allows people to narrow their search fields to like-minded people and allows them to browse potential matches from the comfort and safety of home.

While most of the indicators above suggest that online dating is something to be celebrated and embraced, there are some issues that persist with online dating. These persistent problems include:

Hookup Culture and Uneven Expectations

Many people take to their computers to find love and connection, and are dismayed to find that many of their matches are interested primarily in a hookup or a highly casual encounter. This is not necessarily a bad thing, provided that both parties and aware and consenting, but there can be an imbalance in expectations or a lack of transparency online. Some people may list their profiles as people in search of a lasting relationship and quickly recant that once a connection is established, while others might simply be browsing apps and sites out of curiosity.

This imbalance has led many sites to install blocks on the site’s messaging services, in order to block unwanted images of prospective match’s genitalia and other unwelcome and unsolicited materials. Many sites and apps also allow you to block or report users who harass, proposition, or otherwise treat you inappropriately. Nevertheless, some online daters may grow weary of weeding out people searching for a relationship from those who are looking for short-term or casual dating.

The Ease of Deceit

Everyone can lie about who they are and what they do, but online dating can make it far easier to craft an entire persona that does not actually exist. From using doctored or aged photos, to taking hours to craft a perfectly delivered opener despite being prone to awkwardness in day-to-day interactions, many people are not quite as they appear to be online. These practices are typically referred to as “peacocking,” or the act of putting forth their best possible self rather than their realistic self. Though largely harmless, peacocking can create a divide between what a potential match expects to encounter and what they actually encounter on a date.

Far less innocuous is cat fishing, wherein an individual uses fake photos and traits to lure potential matches in. One survey suggested that 53% of people acknowledge falsifying at least one detail on their profile. From lying about your appearance to lying about how much money you make, online dating can make people feel safer about being dishonest while searching for a date.

Judgment Abounds

The format of online dating can make people feel safer and more comfortable making judgments based entirely on appearance, rather than judging people for who they are as a whole. Online dating is heavily appearance-focused, especially in today’s “swipe right” climate, which can encourage people to make physical appearance the primary determiner of their interest. One researcher has warned that this type of judgment can create a false sense of security regarding the loss of relationships, as losing one partner may not feel like a great loss, as plenty of other opportunities await you with little more than the click of a button. It has even been suggested that people may discount an ideal match based solely on physical appearance—an act that may be far less likely to occur during in-person interactions.

Online Dating Can Be Seen as a Waste of Time

Although connecting and chatting with people online may be common, many of these conversations never actually result in a physical encounter or regular dates. The precise reasons behind this are numerous: while chatting, potential matches may discover they have very little chemistry, or they may find that they do not have as much in common as originally thought. Some people may even enter the online dating arena without intending to see a conversation through to an actual date, and are more in search of conversation and friendly companionship. No matter the actual reason, hours of chatting back and forth without a solid date can make online dating feel like a waste.

One study actually evaluated the amount of time spent talking prior to a date and determined that chatting for more than 17 days prior to meeting led to idealization of a potential partner and subsequent disillusionment. Some studies have even suggested that couples who meet online are less likely to reach the one-year mark of coupledom, and less likely to remain married.

Questions of Safety

Harassment is one of the chief concerns and complaints about online dating. Research has indicated that 28% of people using dating sites and apps have felt uncomfortable or harassed via unwanted messages and images. To maintain safety, online daters should adhere to a few simple guidelines, including not giving out their phone number, not divulging too many identifiable details (home or work address, daily routines, etc.), meeting in a public place, and always letting someone know where they are. No matter how many dates you have gone on in the past or how many dates you might go on in the future, safety is paramount.

Decision Fatigue

There are several phrases used to describe the problem of having too many options, but the paradox of choice and decision fatigue are the most common descriptors. In essence, these phrases are used to describe having too many choices to feel comfortable or secure making a single decision. Having a lot options seems like a significant boon to online dating, but it can actually lead people to feel overwhelmed or overconfident in their ability to just “get another date.”

Learning to Cope

When a discussion of online dating comes up, many people are quick to seek out advice for making their profiles more appealing, rather than seeking advice to avoid the common pains and pitfalls associated with using dating apps and sites. To help prepare yourself for some of the less desirable aspects of dating over the internet, consider the following:

Be Specific About Your Wants and Needs

Knowing what you want will help you create an accurate profile, and will help you navigate potential matches with ease. From the type of relationship you are looking for (long-term, short-term, hookups, etc.), to the type of relationship you are primarily interested in (a highly independent relationship, a relationship that involves a lot of time together, and more), make sure you take some time to figure out what exactly you are looking for.

Set Your Boundaries

Boundaries are vital to carrying out healthy relationships of all types, dating or non. Communication boundaries are important and might include when texts are exchanged, and how often you and your potential match are expected to talk on the phone or in person. Boundaries might also involve when you give out your phone number, when you anticipate meeting friends, whether you discuss any children or personal details, and plenty more.

Online Dating Can Be Overwhelming

Remain Open-Minded

A quick glance at someone’s face is not truly enough to indicate whether or not someone is a good fit for you. Before you immediately swipe right or left, take a few moments to actually go over a potential match’s profile and evaluate how likely the two of you are to be compatible. Instead of scouring the internet looking for that one perfect person, consider casting a wider metaphorical net and getting to know different types of people in a variety of different settings—or even just on a variety of different sites or apps.

Practice Patience

Dating is a prerequisite to finding a relationship. It may seem appealing to skip the tedium of dating altogether and leap into a relationship, but doing so can result in unrealistic expectations and undue pressure on a fledgling partnership. Rather than viewing dating as a frustrating or boring practice, consider practicing patience and finding gratitude for the different roads dating can take you down.

Surviving Online Dating

No matter the format, dating can test your patience and can be difficult on your nerves and self-confidence. Some pitfalls of dating can be avoided altogether, while others must simply be managed as effectively as possible. If you are eager to pursue dating but feel unsure of yourself, or you find yourself continuing the same old patterns without relief, it may be time to consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Online platforms, such as Regain, can be used to receive high-quality, professional mental health assistance, without ever leaving the safety and comfort of your home.

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