The search for love can be exhausting. At times, finding a partner can even seem impossible, especially when the norm for meeting someone special these days involves swiping a screen populated by selfies. While some folks meet their significant others in college, through work, or through friends, many singles spend over an hour per day on dating sites or apps eager to find love.
So how can we make this tiresome process more efficient and successful? How can we stop wasting our time on the person who will never turn into more than just a drunken hookup or a situation consumed by two months of back and forth texting followed by radio silence? Maybe the process of online dating can never be a quick means to finding love, but research on dating in the 21st century shows certain attitudes and behaviors can help people successfully find love online. Here are three tips to increase your chances of finding lasting love online.
1. Don’t Judge Pictures Too Much
It’s very easy to shutdown a perspective suitor based solely a picture. Physical chemistry is an important component of any romantic relationship, so it’s completely understandable that when faced with the decision to show interest in a perspective partner online we put a fair amount of emphasis on looks. However, studies show that in general people are more selective online than they would be if they met the person IRL (in real life). When comparing user activity data from OkCupid and a blind date app to investigate the extent pictures affect response rates, OkCupid creators found that on OkCupid, women who received higher ratings in attractiveness were less likely to respond to men with lower ratings; however, when the same couples were matched for a blind date through the second app, these women reported having a good time. Christian Rudder, a co-founder of OkCupid, explained “people appear to be heavily preselecting online for something that, once they sit down in person, doesn’t seem important to them.”
This is all to say that in the pursuit of love, a few good or not so good pictures on a profile are even less meaningful than we believe. By swiping left or not responding to a message because the person “doesn’t look that cute” or “isn’t your type,” you are immediately eliminating a potential match you may have been stoked about had you met at a bar or at a coffee shop. Makes you think twice about your next swipe, right?
2. Meet Up Soon After Matching
I’ve joked around with friends and clients about the importance of meeting up with a prospective partner soon after matching in efforts to keep the momentum going, but it turns out there is an actual “tipping point” in online dating when too much communication before meeting up affects the chances of the relationship working out. When there is too much communication prior to meeting face to face we tend to idealize the person and naturally feel let down when the person doesn’t meet our expectations. According to a 2014 study, the “tipping point” occurs after 17-23 days, so waiting any longer than that to actually meet becomes risky. In general, the more effort we spend getting to know someone before actually meeting them in person, the more disappointed we are likely to feel if the relationship doesn’t go anywhere (which makes the dating process even more exhausting!). If you’ve matched with someone and think there could be potential, I suggest trying to meet up within a week or two to give yourself the best chance of being pleasantly surprised by your potential mate and to decrease the likelihood of burn out.
3. If You Are Unsure, Go On At Least Three Dates
In our attempts to find the perfect person in a sea of endless options, we all too often shut down potential partners before getting a chance to see who they really are. This haste often leads to missed opportunities for connection. The importance of continued interactions in dating is supported by what social psychologists call the “mere exposure effect”: repeated exposure to a stimulus tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it. In the context of dating, the mere exposure effect implies that the more we hang out with a potential partner, the more likely we are to develop strong feeling towards that person. Not only do you become more familiar with the person the more you see them, but you also start to get a picture of how that person relates to others and views the world, providing a better a sense of whether compatibility truly exists. So if you go on a first date and come away from it feeling unsure, don’t feel discouraged. Love at first sight may exist, but most love takes time. Give the person a chance, let the mere exposure effect kick in, and allow yourself the opportunity to sort out where your feelings really lie before saying yay or nay.
Not putting too much emphasis on pictures, meeting up soon after matching, and giving yourself adequate time to get to know someone in person can hopefully be helpful in making the online dating process a little less exhausting and more fruitful. That being said, I think it’s important to acknowledge part of what makes relationships special and ultimately work are the experiences we learn from along the way. So while the search for your partner may not be graceful or easy, as an individual you are ultimately benefitting from the opportunities dating provides for learning about yourself and what you are really looking for in a companion.
- Ansari, Aziz, and Eric Klinenberg. “How to Make Online Dating Work.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 June 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/opinion/sunday/how-to-make-online-dating-work.html.
- Fox, Margalit. “Robert Zajonc, Who Looked at Mind's Ties to Actions, Is Dead at 85.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Dec. 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/education/07zajonc.html.
- Ramirez, Artemio, et al. “When Online Dating Partners Meet Offline: The Effect of Modality Switching on Relational Communication Between Online Daters.” Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 17 Sept. 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcc4.12101.