Everyone’s looking for a soul-mate, whether we want to get married or not. And we have more opportunities than ever to find them. The biggest change is the $2.4 billion online-dating industry. Mobile apps now make dating instantaneous. People are getting married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options. With more options than anyone could have ever imagined, this is a recipe for romance gone haywire.
A smartphone is a 24-7 singles bar in your pocket. 38% of Americans describe themselves a “single and looking” have used an online dating site. And almost a quarter of online daters find a spouse or long-term partner that way. No wonder it is so popular. It provides you with a seemingly endless supply of people who are single and also looking. If, as a woman, you are looking for a man who is 28, 5’10”, has brown hair, lives in your neighborhood, is a member of the same obscure religion as you and likes the same obscure band, the impossible is now just a few screens away from reality. And in the space it takes to check out of a grocery store line, it is possible to swipe through 60 people’s faces on Tinder.
In online dating, women get a ton more attention than men. Even a guy at the highest level of attractiveness barely receives the number of messages that almost all women get. But still even boring, unattractive men can be real studs.
But this new digital romantic world can be a lot of work. Answering messages and filtering profiles takes time. The process can morph over time to from something fun and exciting into a source of stress.
Are more options better? There are two types of people: “satisficers” (those who satisfy and then suffice) and “maximizers”, who seek out the best. With unlimited options on the Internet and smartphones, we have all become maximizers, whether we are looking for a mate, a new dress or what is for lunch. We compare potential partners not to our life experience but to an idealized person to whom no one could measure up.
But people don’t always know what they want in a soul mate (it is not as easy as buying dishwashing detergent). While we think we know what we want, we’re often wrong. With algorithms, online-dating services initially tried to find matches bases almost exclusively on what clients said they wanted. But it became apparent that the kind of partner they wanted (age, religion, hair color and the like) did not match up with the kind of partner they were actually interested in, and thus contacted.
What Matters and What Doesn’t. Online dating is a circus of self-deception. There are the things that people don’t want to matter, but do, like race.
Then there are the things that people want to matter, but don’t.
1. Profile Text. What you write about yourself in your profile text hardly makes a difference. Many personal apps have gotten rid of personal essays altogether.
2. Religion. No matter how important religion may be in your personal life, in online dating on mainstream sites, it is of marginal importance. However on niche sites like JDate and ChristianMingle, religion is a core value.
3. Hair color, eye color, height, education, employment are generally irrelevant.
What matters the most.
1. Picture. This has 12 times the impact of your profile text.
2. Smoking. How often one smokes is one of the very few true deal breakers.
3. Desire for children.
A big part of online dating is spent on this process – setting your filters, sorting through profiles and checking your checklist. Despite all this, 90% of the time, all that matters is looks when looking for a mate. With mobile dating apps like Tinder, it is not as labor intensive as traditional online dating – sign in, let Tinder use your GPS location to find nearby users and start swiping pictures. If that sounds shallow, think about the first time you saw your present partner – you probably just had her face and then started talking – not much different than Tinder. And not much different than what people have been doing for thousands of years.
In relationships, there is commitment and the commitment of marriage. In most of the world, marriage rates are at historic lows and everyone is marrying later. In the US the rate of marriages per 1000 single women dropped almost 60% from 1970 to 2012, and for the first time in history, the average American spends more years single than married. Instead of marriage, we experiment. Long-term cohabitation is on the rise. Living alone has skyrocketed everywhere, and in many major cities, nearly half of all households have just one resident.
The first stage of a relationship is passionate, you are crazy over each other, your brain is flooded with dopamine (just like with cocaine) and it is not really a rational time. But the high wears off after 12-18 months, things rebalance from passionate love to companionate love. There are two danger points: one at the apes of the passionate-love phase where people get married too quickly; and one when passionate love is starting to wear off when you worry whether this is really the right person for you. Be patient at this time, invest more in the other person, and things usually turn out.
Women and Online Dating. Not since the introduction of the birth control pill has there been anything as liberating as online dating. Along with sexual freedom came the power of choice and women could experience intimacy with more than one man before she had to select a life partner. Online dating allows a woman a test drive. It arms women with some knowledge needed to make a better choice before the dte even begins.
78% of women want a partner with a steady job. Dating profiles allow a woman to ascertain her preferences all without asking uncomfortable questions on a first date. Only when armed with sufficient information will she proceed with a date. She has the power to initiate the meeting, if she so chooses.
A woman sending a message to a man has an 18% chance of receiving a response, whereas a man has only a 4% likelihood. A man sends on an average 25 messages to get a response, a woman 5. In a stunning cultural reversal, women can now make the first move allowing them to be more selective and forward without the stigma for being the pursuer. There is a much larger pool from which to select potential dates. Online dating may not be perfect but it certainly beats waiting to be asked out at a bar.
Set up a new email account for online dating that will be separate from all personal and work accounts. That way you’ll keep track of online dating communication and be able to easily isolate any unwanted or inappropriate content. Make sure your real name isn’t included in your email address and check that any signatures are switched off.