Online dating's fatal flaws

Researchers recently published a book-length article in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest on the scientific flaws of online dating. They wrote a layperson’s summary for Scientific American, but even that was three pages long (practically an eternity in internet time). So here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

Online dating’s one main strength: people who find it difficult (because, for example, they’re new to a city or don’t have much free time) to meet others through more conventional means (like work, a hobby, a network of friends) can, through online personals, actually meet new people.

Online dating’s first big weakness: the overdependence on proflie browsing, since studies show that singles CANNOT get a good sense of whether they’d be compatible with a potential partner based on that person’s profile.

Online dating’s second big weakness: the overheated emphasis on matching algorithms, since there is no evidence supporting the claims of sites using such algorithms — the available evidence suggests that the mathematical algorithms at matching sites are negligibly better than matching people at random.

Conclusion: “online dating is not better than conventional offline dating in most respects, and … it is worse in some respects.”


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