Online dating is becoming as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Luring people by its convenience and simplicity, apps like OK Cupid and Tinder provide for newer and faster ways of meeting countless people.
Open your phone, answer a few personal questions, and, bam! You have a list of attractive, single, and available people for your choosing.
You like tall women? Men with trust funds? There’s an app that can tailor a catalog of people that fit your ideal “type” with a few simple keystrokes.
The only problem is that we may not know what it is we truly want in terms of a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
In the book “Modern Romance: An investigation,” Aziz Anzari reveals this reality based off recent research on the success of dating sites saying, “Scientists working with Match.com found that the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in.”
Anzari bases this claim from the book “Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating,” by Dan Slater. The book allocates multiple studies investigating into the legitimacy of online dating algorithms that quantify a romantic match.
So, how do we understand who are “type” really is? And how effective are online dating sites at connecting us with strangers to form genuine relationships?
Paul Eastwick, a researcher Slater quotes in his book, has spent years exploring the psychological mechanisms in initiating and sustaining romantic relationships. Eastwick argued that the problem with dating algorithms is that, “You’re trying to predict how two people’s relationship will go before they’ve met.”
Eastwick’s study on “Ideal Partner Preferences” breaks down the three stages of a relationship, and reveals the difference between what we may say we want in a relationship versus what is truly desired.
The relationship begins, according to the study, with an “awareness stage”, where two people form impressions upon each other before even interacting. The second stage is explained as the “surface contact” point in which superficial exchanges of information are made between two people. The third is the “mutuality,” in which both parties recognize the relationship and reciprocally desire greater levels of intimacy.
The significance of these three stages is monumental. What you think you want in a partner–and certain traits that you may see and like in their online profile–may change when you actually meet someone. Eastwick calls this a “point of disconnect,” the moment when participants’ ideals cease to have predictive power in a relationship.
For example, if you’re very into creative, free-spirit types, but meet someone who is so much of a free spirit that they, maybe, don’t brush their teeth– that positive attribute you were searching for actually becomes a negative.
So the things that were previously considered your “type” may actually have you saying, “wow, this is actually not my type at all…When will this date end?”
Scholars have been noting this discrepancy as far back as the 1950s saying, “There is no way of knowing the extent to which check-marks on paper correspond to actual value.” All those answers on Match.com may not be linking you to your true partner preference.
Eastwick’s assertion is that these “ideal partner preferences” only cull significance after a substantial relationship has been formed in reality. He says that, “There is a strong theoretical rationale for suspecting that ideal partner preferences would have stronger predictive validity in established rather than fledgling relationships.”
In other words, the more seriously you get to know someone, the more likely those checkmarks on their profile will actually become predictors of their personality. This means that the things that you may want in a person–like, short redheads who only live on Park Avenue–may actually become worthless when said redhead is unmotivated, or unkind to servers, or chews too loudly.
That’s not to say that these preferences are completely without validity. Eastwick emphasizes in the study that, “Participants whose dating partners matched their ideal partner preferences were happier with their relationships and were less likely to break up with their partners.”
Clearly, there are elements of truth to our preferences that lead to happier, more fulfilling relationships, but how do you get to that relationship?
The problem may be the platform itself.
Online dating can introduce you to so many new people, but the trick,says Aziz and many others, is to get “the date” offline. It seems that lasting relationships only come when you ground the abstract principals you set on others within the reality of interacting with them in person.
That beautiful redhead may definitely seem like your “type,” however only until you take her out to understand the nuances of her personality do you understand if she’s truly your type.
Meet people…in person. Grab a coffee and get to know them. Then, maybe, think about whether or not they are “your type.” It may be farther ranging than you think.
Main image courtesy of Pexels.