Two approaches to online dating

With more relationships starting online than ever before, we looked at the factors that can make the difference between a false start and a long-term future. 

Developing relationships


In the early stages, online daters tend to spend longer deliberating over their choices. Online relationships can therefore take longer to develop than those starting offline [1]. 

One reason for this is that online dating can give us the impression that there is an endless supply of potential matches. If you’re not sure about a relationship, you have a couple of choices – you can either pursue it and see how it goes, or you can end it and start looking for the next one. If you’re confident you can find another match online fairly quickly, ending the current one might feel like the easiest option [1].

The marketplace approach


if you’re not quite ready for a long-term commitment or if you don’t yet know what you’re looking for, you might approach online dating sites as a kind of marketplace.

Online daters using this approach tend to make quickfire assessments of a person’s potential as a romantic partner, turning the dating process into an exchange where potential partners are seen as commodities to be selected from a choice of many. And, when there’s a choice, it feels easier to exchange one partner for another – so we go shopping again [2].

This approach might mean you get to meet a lot of people, but it won’t necessarily lead to a successful long-term relationship. Relationships usually work best when two people respond to each other’s needs, rather than weighing up the costs and benefits as they go [2].

The long-term approach


On the other hand, if you are specifically looking for a long-term relationship, you may find one online faster than you would if you went looking offline. When looking for a long-term relationship online, you’re likely to put more consideration into the selection process, and you’ll find it easier to ask those big questions that are hard to ask in the early days of a traditional offline relationship [3].

So, if you go into the process looking for love, and you already know what you want, it becomes possible to skip through a lot of the getting-to-know-you stuff that usually has to happen at the beginning of a relationship [3].

 

References


[1] Paul, A. (2014). Is online better than offline for meeting partners? depends: Are you looking to marry or to date? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(10). 

[2] Finkel, E., Eastwick, P., Karney, B., Reis, H., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66.

[3] Rosenfeld. Michael J. (2017). “Marriage, Choice, and Couplehood in the Age of the Internet.” Sociological Science 4:490-51.

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