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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 , can be used to receive high-quality, professional mental health assistance, without ever leaving the safety and comfort of your home.
“Shannon is very knowledgeable, and skilled in knowing how to use that knowledge to help others. She is also very compassionate and encouraging. I was skeptical about using a counseling service, but this experience has been incredible. I highly recommend Shannon to anyone who needs guidance or help through a difficult time in life. I gave her some enormous challenges, and nothing has been over her head. She has been a tremendous help to me.”
"My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What is the problem with online dating?
Online dating can be an incredibly frustrating and stressful experience for many people. Some of the most common complaints around dating online are rejection/getting ghosted, meeting up with a date who wasn’t who they claimed to be, and the superficiality of selecting people to connect with based largely on appearance. Sometimes it can feel like online dating takes up an overwhelming amount of time and mental capacity.
Various articles discuss why online dating sucks for men in particular. It is common for heterosexual men to send out many messages to women online only to get one response back (if that). Other reasons why online dating sucks for men are the amount of competition involved in pursuing a woman online and getting ghosted or rejected. An article published by OkCupid found that many men are also more selective about their desired appearance in a partner, which means they are messaging women who receive a high volume of messages, making it less likely they will receive a response.
If you decide to start dating online, it is important that you feel ready and open to meet someone new and recognize that finding someone special is a process. Several online dating tips include finding the dating site that is most aligned with what you are looking for, having boundaries around how much time you spend swiping on a dating app or maintaining conversations, and taking time to build rapport with a potential match before meeting in person.
Why should you avoid online dating?
Potential signs that might indicate that it may not be healthy for you to date online are if it hurts your mental health, you notice it becomes more about receiving validation than making a meaningful connection, it is more stressful than fun, you are not able to be flexible about what you are looking for in a partner, and you find yourself feeling desperate to be in a relationship.
On the other hand, there are positive aspects of dating online, such as connecting with more people than one typically would in one daily life. Individuals who can remain optimistic, not take rejection personally, and maintain boundaries to protect their mental health may find online dating an excellent option. Match and EHarmony are top options for finding a serious relationship. Free dating sites such as OkCupid and Plenty of Fish are worth trying as well. Dating apps that are gaining popularity for Millenials include Hinge, Bumble, and Coffee Meet Bagel.
Is online dating a waste of time?
For many individuals, online dating provides an avenue to connect with others that they would not meet organically in their daily lives. This makes it an incredibly efficient way to meet more single individuals who share your values and interests.
However, various challenges can make online dating frustrating and, at times, feel fruitless. It is likely for an individual to have to weed through many matches, deal with conversations that go nowhere, and face being ghosted by someone unexpectedly. You might have heard that online dating sucks for men in particular. While the average woman typically receives countless messages, it is much less likely for men to get matches or receive a message back.
Before a person decides to start dating online, they must commit to keeping an open mind and resilient spirit throughout the setbacks they are likely to face in finding their person.
Is online dating really worth it?
Many sources would say yes! Searching for potential dates online allows individual access to many people they would not meet otherwise. As there has been decreased stigma around online dating over the years, many individuals find themselves utilizing the Internet to make connections that can lead to committed relationships or partnerships. The date option online may be particularly appealing for shy individuals or those who live with social anxiety and have difficulties initiating conversation with others in social settings.
Online dating has also been shown to save money. Instead of meeting with a blind date that may or may not progress, an individual can build rapport with a potential match before deciding to meet up with someone and pay for a date.
Several online dating tips to enhance your experience include narrowing down which dating site best fits what you are looking for, crafting a profile that accurately captures what makes you unique, and setting boundaries around time spent on dating apps to prevent burnout.
Which dating site has the highest success rate?
Match is the most successful online dating site for finding a serious relationship. As it has been around for the longest time, it has perfected its algorithm for connecting its users to potential dates based on compatibility. Since you have to pay for Match, users are more likely to find a lasting partnership instead of a hook-up.
If you are looking for free dating sites, you might consider OkCupid or Plenty of Fish which also have positive results for finding a serious relationship as opposed to Tinder which is known for less committal users seeking more short-term flings.
Is dating stressful?
Most people find dating to be very stressful and anxiety-producing. It can evoke difficult feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and fear of rejection. This is normal. An individual must lean on their support system and have a safe space to process feelings and experiences as they navigate the complex world of dating.