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Online Dating: Smarter or Harder?

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The Internet has put many things at our disposal and has created an uncanny convenience for users but is online dating one of its blessings or is it a curse?

Some people opt to date online because they’re too busy and/or don’t want to waste their time with people who they are not compatible with but in the process, potential matches never have a chance because of the screening processes of many dating sites.

People generally present their “better sides,” especially when trying to attract people to them. Rarely do people announce their dirty little secrets, before a first date. They might list traits that they think are important but could leave out some that potential matches may be attracted to.

A study conducted by the Journal of Interactive Marketing stated that daters wish to screen potential romantic partners by experimental attributes like sense of humor but online dating sites force people to screen matches by searchable attributes like income or religion. Income and religion might better dictate preference than chemistry or compatibility.

The same study noted that people are experience goods not consumer goods. Experience goods, or people, means they’re “judged by the feelings they evoke, rather than the functions they perform.” But online dating sites screen daters like they would consumer goods, i.e. detergent, dog food and vitamins, which have tangible attributes.

Surely people can tell the difference between detergent and dog food, but something like a sense of humor is not as subjective. A person might consider his or herself funny but what is funny, really? One person’s definition could be drastically different than yours.

But some people would risk being mismatched when they consider how many more people they could meet through online dating versus other mediums.

In fact, 64 percent of online daters think dating on the Web helps people find better matches because they have access to a larger pool of potential dates, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

At the very least, people can get closer to finding a romantic partner by process of elimination, and what faster way is there than the Web?

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to meet someone worth your time, outside of the World Wide Web, you still have to weed out the bad seeds.

“When the goals and background of each partner are unknown, the possibility of deception is very high. In fact, uncertainty during relational initiation is magnified by impression management concerns,” according to a study conducted by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The same study stated that the aspect of self-presentation is strategic misrepresentation, which is "the conscious and intentional misrepresentation of characteristics about oneself.”

However, this isn’t an online exclusive concern, don’t people have to deal with the same issues when dating offline?

Online dating isn’t a magic tool to finding romantic partners, it’s merely another platform. It can help you narrow down people of interest but, as virtually every dating site will disclose, it doesn’t guarantee that you will find someone. At the very best you will have something in common with every other person on a dating site -- you’re all looking for someone.


Journal of Interactive Marketing. Wiley Online Library. Web. 9, Nov. 2011.

Online Dating. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Web. 9, Nov. 2011.

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. SAGE Journals Online. Web. 9, Nov. 2011.

Malu is an editorial intern with EmpowHER and a multimedia journalism student at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

What's important to remember is that no two online dating sites are the same. eHarmony is much more restrictive than, say, Match.com. No one "forces" you to select your dates based on their income or the other factors you mentioned and as for humor... I don't think anyone is suggesting replacing face-to-face courtship with virtual chats. The entire point of meeting someone ONline is to eventually get OFFline!

November 10, 2011 - 6:02pm
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