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“Clicking” with Online Dating

Once considered taboo, online dating has become a more commonplace practice amongst daters. While many people have a more positive view of online dating than they did in the past, others fail to see the benefits. This is because some still view those who use dating sites as desperate, or they have had negative experiences such as encountering someone who had taken liberties when describing themselves online.1,2

Despite the differences in opinion about people who use online dating platforms, there is no doubt that such usage is on the rise. One in 10 Americans have used a dating site or mobile app, and 23% have met their spouse or long-term partner through such sites.1,2 Furthermore, 38% of Americans who are single and actively looking for a partner have used online dating at one point or another and 5% of Americans who are currently married or in a long-term partnership met their partners online.2

Online dating may provide a platform for people who are overcommitted in other aspects of life (e.g., work) and have little time to screen hundreds of applicants in person to meet their matches. In fact, these websites provide individuals with “increased information about a wider pool of potential partners than usually available in face-to-face encounters.” 3  

Researchers note that online dating sites can help a user search for those who share similarities, interests, and values. Users can also search by specific demographics.4

Specifically, there are three main services provided by online dating sites:

  1. access to potential partners,
  2. the ability to communicate using mediated channels before meeting in person, and
  3. the option of being matched using romantic compatibility algorithms.5

Some sites, such as OKCupid and Match, allow the user to look through thousands of profiles, with the option of filtering based on indicated preferences. This allows the user to view and screen potential partners. Other sites, like eHarmony, use questionnaires to determine the best “match” and send you profiles every few days.

Many sites use an algorithm to create the match and determine compatibility. While most sites keep this information private, OKCupid presents their algorithm on their site. Every time a user answers a question on their site, they collect the following information:

  1. “Your answer,
  2. How you’d like someone else to answer, and
  3. How important the question is to you.”6

However, OKCupid notes that there is always a margin of error and, “Even though two users have satisfied each other on a few common questions, they may not actually be a good match. That is, while the set of questions you’ve both answered…is small, we can’t have much confidence in the match percentage yielded by the…calculations.”6 But the site always provides the user with the lowest possible percentage a match can be. Thus, they are conservative in their match identification. The more questions a user answers, the more confident he/she can be in the match percentage presented.Ultimately, although the format of the sites may differ, the goal is still the same: to help users form a romantic connection with another person.

So what do I think about these sites? Despite the chance that the person you are talking to is misrepresenting him/herself and the resistance from some of the public to use this form of dating, I am 100% confident they are more than capable of doing what they advertise. Why? Because it worked for me; without the site, I wouldn’t have crossed paths with my husband.

Friends that consider me an online dating success story often ask me which site works the best. While some sites, such as those that provide a vast array of profiles rather than sending users matches, are more time consuming and a little daunting, I don’t think any one site is better than the other. The only surefire way to come across that lasting connection is when the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life happens to be on the same site at the exact same span of time. Not only that, but you also both need to be at the point in the process in which you are not seriously dating anyone else and are ready to jump in to a new relationship with both feet. At that point, all you need is one little click.

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1Datascience@Berkeley Blog. (2014, February 10). Big data seeks online love [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://d2jm4qw7a11yde.cloudfront.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/BigData-Dating-IG.jpg

2Smith, A. & Duggan, M.  (2013). Online dating and relationships. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/10/21/online-dating-relationships/

3Heino, R. D., Ellison, N. B., & Gibbs, J. L. (2010). Relationshopping: Investigating the market metaphor in online dating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 427–447. doi: 10.1177/0265407510361614

4Fiore, A. T., & Donath, J. S. (2004). Online personals: An overview. Computer Human Interaction, 1395–1398.

5Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13, 3–66. doi: 10.1177/1529100612436522

6OKCupid. (2015). Match percentage. Retrieved from http://www.okcupid.com/help/match-percentages

Dr. Marisa Cohen

Marisa, along with a colleague at St. Francis College, founded the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab (SABL) in Fall 2014. Research has focused on the development of relationships throughout the life span, including factors influencing mate choice and peoples’ perceptions of what makes relationships survive and thrive. Her specific focus is on how various relationship configurations impact the satisfaction derived from them. 

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