The scientific approach to online dating

Sixty-three percent of couples say they met in person compared to the 20% that claimed to have met their partner through some sort of online platform.

Roughly 40 million Americans use dating apps according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. This statistic is composed of 52.4% male users and 47.6% female users.

While the online method of getting a bit of crumpet is experiencing a healthy surge in popularity, the kinks seemed to be settling in. Sixty-three percent of couples say they met their mates in person compared to the 20% that claimed to have met their partner through some sort of online platform.


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!


This is perhaps, in part, due to the fact that no one seems to really know how to properly navigate the digital romance machine. Over 30% of female users and 16% of male users rely on their friends to help them make the perfect online dating profile.

Forbes reports that roughly 1,000 new dating sites get launched a year, contributing to the staggering 8,000 dating apps that already exist around the world today. If dating apps insist on further plating themselves between us and a good time, we should probably learn how to take advantage of them.

The psychology behind dating apps

Before any considerations are made on your quest to find a partner via Tinder or OkCupid or what have you, it’s important to make sure you’ve got all of your mental priorities in check.

A study published in 2016 stands beside a good many others that admonish the way apps of this kind encourages evaluative tendencies. The calculations are simple enough, “Tinder users reported having lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and bodies and having lower levels of self-worth than the men and women who did not use Tinder,” says Jessica Strubel, who co-authored the study.

The very nature of these platforms requires we subject ourselves to quite a few no’s, some of which might not be so cleanly phrased. After similar findings emerged from a separate study, psychologist Trent Petrie believes that perspective is needed if online dating is going to be your avenue for finding a partner. He suggests we ask ourselves why we are on our respective apps. If the answer is anything resembling validation, you might want to examine your approach. The most sure-fire tactical methods of navigating online dating start with a mind that can’t be bothered with its judgment.

Making the dating apps work in our favor

As Lara Hallam of the Department of Communications at the University of Antwerp quite correctly points out, the fundamental principles of dating apps aren’t all that new.  Bumble is more or less the digital interpretation of your aunt recommending the daughter of one of her friends; she’s yay tall, her hair is this color and really enjoys doing this or that, just like you. Having these precursors to work with ensures we spend less time wasting it. Unfortunately, humans are a little more complicated than puzzle pieces. Some times the right shapes simply want nothing to do with each other despite how much they connect on paper.

So to keep from becoming overwhelmed by options, and too compelled by superficial similarities, it’s vital to remain selective. Keely Khomes, Phys, D suggests honesty, particularly when it comes to listing any deal breakers.

A recent study revealed a lack of information regarding what we are looking for to lead to a disparity in responses. Of the people surveyed in the study, the majority of respondents used 70% of their bio to provide information about themselves leaving 30% of info dedicated to what they’re looking for.  The best method seems to combine both tactics. List inclusive hobbies, as to draw people with similar interests.

As far as what you want to advertise to potential suitors? An analysis of over 86 research papers determined the most effective profile picture is one with a genuine smile, looking at the camera, and with a slight tilt of the head.  Emotional availability also seems to be key. According to psychotherapist and relationship expert, Denise Limongello, frequently settling for emotionally unavailable partners fosters the development of a deep sense of false hope, making it hard to engage with future partners even online.

Despite the low rate of couples that have met online, couples that do meet that way tend to stay together longer and be more diverse than couples that meet the traditional way.


You might also enjoy…

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.