Miss Matched Online
Psychologists Hammer Online Dating for Its Flaws
Looks like cupid won’t be out of work anytime soon. A new report by psychologists and sociologists critiquing online dating sites warns these sites misrepresent their ability to make the perfect match, among other flaws. (This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that we know a number of guys who join these sites to have casual sex, citing, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”)
While online dating sites have built their billion-dollar industry on “matching algorithms” that determine precise compatibility, "To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works," says the report’s lead author, Eli Finkel, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at Northwestern University.
The authors argue that the formulas and processes behind online matching are flawed because they don’t take into account the most important information needed to determine relationship success. Finkel explains, "Developers of matching algorithms have tended to focus on the information that is easy for them to assess, like similarity in personality and attitudes, rather than the information that relationship science has found to be crucial for predicting long-term relationship well-being.”
According to relationship science, the strongest predictors of relationship success include a couple’s interaction style and ability to navigate stressful circumstances, something for which algorithms in their current form cannot account. Now that we think about it, we’ve never noticed any columns for how you handle an earthquake or car jacking on these dating sites…
The report’s authors fault online dating for other reasons, too. They say that searching through online dating profiles is a poor substitute for face-to-face contact with prospective mates, which is critical to determine whether there’s a romantic spark. Why is it that “good on paper” usually leads to “boring as hell”? Additionally, searching through droves of profiles can be overwhelming or cause people to treat the process more like shopping rather than finding a partner.
The authors do, however, conclude that online dating has the benefit of widening singles’ pools of connections and establishing more opportunities for them to quickly meet others, who they can then assess in person.
Finding your soul mate is hard enough. So, we say do whatever works for you. Just, ya know, keep in mind that there are just as many barrel fish shooters on the internet as there are in the bar.
Source: Association for Psychological Science (2012). Grading the online dating industry. EurekAlert! Retreived from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/afps-gto020612.php
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