Couples who meet online don’t tend to be any happier with their love lives than those who meet in traditional offline settings. That’s the conclusion of a new research report by LoveLearnings, where the authors sorted through various research studies in an attempt to find out whether internet dating produces healthier, happier, and more committed romantic relationships.
For those who have used dating websites like PlentyOfFish or Match.com in the past, this may come as no surprise, since finding and meeting your soulmate on one of these websites can quickly begin to seem like an unrealistic objective. But many sites, such as eHarmony, claim to offer “matchmaking algorithms” that are “scientifically designed” pair you off with compatible singles based on a variety of attributes and qualities.
As it turns out, those surveys and matchmaking algorithms don’t stand up well when put under the microscope. “To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works,” says Eli Finkel, professor of social psychology at Northwestern University and one of the researchers cited in the report.
Another problem with online dating as a whole? Too much choice.
As counterintuitive as it may seem at first, the researchers suggest that online dating offers so much choice in potential partners that it can actually be detrimental to overall outcomes. This is often referred to as “tyranny of choice.” The problem is that, when humans are offered a variety of choice, they tend to have more difficulty choosing the best option. “When there is something better out there, you can’t help trying to find it,” says Nick Puamgarten, quoted in the new research paper. “You fall prey to the tyranny of choice-the idea that people, when faced with too many options, find it harder to make a selection.”
Other downsides of online dating include price (depending on the website, price ranges from free to $100+ per month), dishonest users who create fake profiles, and a host of privacy issues.
It’s not all bad news, though: the study does recognize that internet dating websites offer a new and less intimidating place to meet singles of the opposite sex (especially sites that charge a monthly subscription fee, which acts as a natural filter against less committed folks). For those who hate the nightclub scene, or who simply aren’t able to meet other singles by traditional offline means, online dating makes a lot of sense.
Most relationship experts acknowledge the benefits offered by internet dating websites, and see them as a useful tool for some people. However, as outlined in the recent research, meeting someone online doesn’t make it any more likely that you’ll fall in love and live happily ever after.