Why online dating doesn’t work … and what you should do about it
The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of online dating sites around the world, and the number of people using them. According to some estimates, there are over 8,000 online dating sites worldwide, and over 2,500 in the US alone. Yes, that’s just the number of different sites ; it’s no wonder that many people find online dating overwhelming!
A bit over a decade ago, online dating was viewed by many as the last resort for those who hadn’t found a relationship the “normal” way.
The industry has completely transformed a fundamental aspect of human communication, changing how we meet new people and go looking for partners. In the US, online dating is now the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet (behind introductions through friends).
After millions of years of human evolution, and thousands of years of the development of human society, humans had settled on the idea that in-person interactions through fun, face-to-face social activities were the best way to meet new people.
Instead of meeting people in a fun social environment first, and using all the social tools we have to figure out if you like somebody’s company, technology arrived to help you make a decision about someone without ever even needing to meet them in person.
Suddenly there was a different way to find a partner, one that promised practically infinite possibilities, where an algorithm could find you the “right” person without you needing to do the hard work of ever actually talking to them in person. And if you don’t like what you see, you can always click on to the next profile – there is always another candidate just around the corner!
Of course, online dating wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t work for so many people. According to some estimates, over a third of marriages in the US are now from couples who first met online. (Interestingly, that definition of “meeting online” includes more than just online dating sites, teenchat hookup and includes all sorts of social networks and online communication.)
If you’re aged 50 or over, finding a partner online is even more complicated. You’re not looking for the same things you were when you were young: you’re not typically looking to settle down and have kids, for example! Your reasons for finding someone are often broader and more diverse; you may not even be really sure if it’s romance you’re looking for at all.
Add those complications to the fact that online dating is, for many people, a thoroughly dispiriting experience, and it’s no wonder that older adults are more likely to rate it as a negative experience than any other demographic.
But how is this possible? If some people are finding love through online dating sites, why does it fail so many others?
1. Filters are your enemy
Researchers in the UK recently calculated the odds of finding a compatible partner if they used the average person’s requirements (in terms of desired age, physical requirements, location, and so on).
They found that just over 84,440 people in the UK fit the average person’s requirements, from an adult population of 47 million.
In other words, applying the average person’s filters when it comes to finding a compatible partner gives you less than a 1 in 500 chance of being successful.
Some sites take this to an extreme degree and let you go nuts specifying the attributes you want: professional background, religion, salary, ethnicity, personal habits, even pet preferences!