Yesterday I read an interesting article (Health.com) about what psychologists consider the pitfalls of online dating. The findings were interesting. As a repeat offender on eHarmony and Match.com, I tend to agree with much of what author Amanda Gardner and her subjects had to say.
The team found one weakness of online dating to be an over reliance on profiles. “Although most dating websites feature photos and detailed, searchable profiles covering everything from personality traits to likes and dislikes, this information isn’t necessarily useful in identifying a partner,” the psychologists say. They attribute this to the fact that dates don’t know what they’re actually looking for in a mate, so seeing character traits on a profile may confuse, sway or lead… instead of “match.”
Harry Reis, PhD, points out that “online dating creates a shopping mentality, and that is probably not a particularly good way to go about choosing a mate.” This can lead, he says, to daters becoming over critical, and can discourage spontaneous interaction, especially when online daters eventually meet in person.
The authors also challenge the claim that sites like eHarmony and PerfectMatch.com “minimize the guesswork involved in online dating by using mathematical algorithms to match couples according to various traits…” This team of psychologists just doesn’t buy it. So, are you saying it was a complete waste of time to spend two hours completing the elaborate eHarmony questionnaire to determine my 29 dimensions of compatibility? Well, that’s annoying! Eli J. Finkel, PhD, the lead author of this review of online dating, and his colleagues go so far as to say, “These algorithm-based services may encourage a counterproductive ‘destiny’ mindset that prizes initial compatibility over other factors that are important to the long-term health of a relationship…”
Well, that’s a lot of fancy science talk. I’m no psychologist, but I am an experienced online dater. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to name a few pitfalls with the online dating scene. I, Dr. Ruth (pun intended), highlight the following pitfalls, just off the top of my head:
There’s a propensity to stretch the truth. Or as some professionals might say—people lie a lot online. Guys lie about their height, girls lie about their weight. I’ve seen fibs in all areas—income level (Why is this even listed?); job details (I highly doubt you “run the FBI,” buddy); and hobbies (Gyms around the nation should be overflowing based on how many guys on Match.com work out “5-7 times per week”). One exaggeration that particularly bugs me is in the faith category. Saying you’re a Christian means something to me. It means you follow Christ, and that choice affects your daily life choices. I’ve been matched with “Christian” men who post drinking pictures taken with random bikini-clad women on Spring Break in Panama City. I smell someone’s pants of fire.
The pursuit can easily become lazy. I wrote about this recently in a post about how unromantic texting can be. The same phenomenon seems to happen on dating sites. Instead of an email, you might get a “wink.” It’s not even an actual wink—it’s a button that says wink, and the user clicks on it. Perhaps they are actually winking as they click the wink button, but it’s impossible to know. The online dating wink is the equivalent of the Facebook poke—and we all know how popular that feature is. On Match.com, you can click “Yes, I’m Interested,” which just sends an alert to the user, essentially leaving the ball in his/her court. Why not just email them to begin with? Because it’s so much easier for a guy to wink at 50 girls, sit back on his couch, drink a beer, and just see which potential soul mates write back.
There’s too much emphasis on looks. I struggle with this one, because I think physical attraction is important to any relationship. But most of the photos posted on these sites take it too far. For instance, is there any reason to see someone in a hot tub before your first date? Is there any reason to see a gal in a string bikini before you ever meet in person? Is there any reason to see a shirtless Jersey Shore-wannabe take a cell phone photo in his bathroom mirror… ever?! I know those who post these photos are looking for a certain type of attention—but it still clouds the process. Men on these sites get used to seeing those types of photos, and almost expect them. Suddenly, my photos in front of the fabulous Westminster Abbey or overlooking the breathtaking Sydney skyline are boring or even prudish.
So, the smarty-pants psychologists and I agree: Online dating ain’t perfect. But for the online dater like myself, this sure is a Debbie Downer of a post. I’m such a complainer! It seems I could write 10,000 words on the pitfalls of online dating.
But, the truth is—and I’ve said this before—I think online dating, when used properly, can be great! Stay tuned for Part Two: Online Dating is So Cool!, coming tomorrow. Because the story here doesn’t end with the pitfalls. It’s about how to overcome these pitfalls to turn online dating into something that could potentially help you find special someone — that someone who just might mean you can permanently close your eHarmony account.