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In the quest to find romance, more of us have turned to online dating.
But this can also lead you to pass up on potential dates because with all those options, you can't help but think, "There must be someone better out there." Online dating sites can thus foster an attitude in which potential mates are objectified like products on a store shelf, rather than people (Finkel et al., 2012). Online profiles are missing vital information you can only glean in person (Finkel et al., 2012), so it can be difficult to know if you’re really compatible with someone based solely on what they have shared on a dating site.
Research shows that people spend their time on dating sites searching criteria such as income and education, and physical attributes like height and body type, when what they need is information about the actual experience of interacting with and getting to know the person on the other end of the profile (Frost et al., 2008).
But in real life, after we get to know someone and like their personality, we begin to find them more physically appealing as well (Kniffin & Wilson, 2004).
Making a quick decision based on an online photo doesn’t allow for this slower development of physical attraction and may cause us to dismiss potential mates to whom we could become attracted.
A recent survey of 19,000 people who married between 20 found that 35 percent of these new couples met online, with about half of those meeting through an online dating site (Cacioppo et al., 2013).
How can these sites help you find romance, and what pitfalls should you be aware of?
The same principle applies to online dating: The sheer number of potential partners creates abundant choice.
So if one dater doesn’t suit the bill, there are hundreds more who could be better.
Thus, it is not surprising that shy people are more likely to look for romance on dating sites (Scharlott & Christ, 1995; Ward & Tracey, 2004). As discussed, one benefit of online dating sites is access to hundreds, even thousands of potential mates—but having all those options is not always a great thing.
A large body of literature on decision-making shows that, in general, when we have choice (Schwartz, 2004).
In addition, when we read vague information about someone, we mentally fill in the blanks with specific details that may be incorrect (Norton & Frost, 2007).