The Science of Online Dating

Before starting my post-grad, I was a dating consultant for a few years. In that time I saw the explosion of dating sites from Match and Plenty of Fish, to popular “casual” apps like Tinder. Many of my clients had used them. They are easy to use, but many of my clients would get it wrong; therefore, not get their desired results.

On campus I have met students who use dating sites and have asked me for advice. When looking at their profiles I am shocked to see they are making the same mistakes I have seen others do in the past. Here is my guide to online dating.

*Say “cheese”!*
Online dating is like going to the supermarket – you look and examine what is on the shelf before choosing what you want based on the look and feel of what is on offer. That is why Tinder is popular as it fits those who are superficial.

The photo plays a very important role. A nice smile and being appropriately dressed will attract more interest as the person will come across as more genuine and confident – and we all know confidence is sexy.

Be original. Why not put a photo of yourself with your friends (with your friends cut out, obviously, so perspective partners know which one is you) or a nice outdoor shot of you in a park, festival or camping, as these outdoorsy/motion shots give an insight into your everyday personality.

*Generic Adjectives*
How or where do you even start to write about yourself as a person in a profile? It is difficult as we are not deducible to 2-dimentional profiles; therefore, it can be testing to portray who we really are.

Looking at the men’s profiles, they use the same generic adjectives and phrases.

“I like cooking and an excellent cook…”
“Regularly go to the gym and play sports…”
“I’m laid back and can get along with very much anyone”
“I’m an independent, confident and positive person…”
“…funny and a great friend to have.”

But it’s not just the guys – a lot of girls used similar sentences:

“’I love my family and my friends…”
“…funny and passionate in everything I do in life and work”
“…open minded and love travelling”
“I am self-sufficient, independent, and honest”
“I’m someone who would describe themself as unique in one sense…”

If you took away photos and any references to gender in the profiles you would struggle to tell whether the sentences described either an eligible bachelor or lady.

*Tell me about yourself?*
On to the actual text of the profile, how do we know what we are reading about the other person is true?

The generic descriptors are easier (e.g. height, occupation, personality etc.) but many exaggerate online – guys will make themselves taller, and girls slimmer. It’s not just the generic descriptors where people exaggerate. We are all competing with each other to attract someone so we will say stuff like “regularly play sport and cook” to give the illusion we are fit and strong when in actual fact “regularly” may mean “once a week.” The ‘meathead’ who spends most of the time at the gym or with the boys drinking may say he is “smart and well read” to attract a lady who his parents would be proud off, but the only thing he could talk to you about is the number of calories in Nando’s chicken! His profile fails to inform the reader he has no interest in her success and easily jealous of her aspirations, and would not be able to enlighten or engage her in a discussion on different cultures or topical news because he is not as “smart and well read” as stated.

When writing your online profile it is important to be as honest as possible about yourself, your interests and what you are looking for, and you will attract the right person for you.

*How does online dating affect the physiological process of getting to know a partner?*
Matching your personality and values is difficult online as you are just looking at the words the person has written. The personality questions (e.g. how much do you enjoy the arts; how often do you watch film/television; do you like the outdoors; what’s your favourite sport; how religious are you) on Single Solutions or Love Struck or the algorithm sites (e.g. E-Harmony or Shaadi) claim they offer something different. They try and deduce from what you have answered to be able to find your perfect match. They may well introduce you to someone of similar interests but meeting someone of similar interests does not mean you will necessarily be compatible or result in a long term relationship.

It is very intuitive that these things matter but what also matters is that the two people click on other levels. It is important that if you think you have met someone with similar interests and personality to yourself from the online profile (virtual world) that you meet up quickly offline (real world) and make your own judgement.

*Does the internet offer more than traditional dating?*
In our busy everyday life it gives men and women more choice and opportunities to meet a perspective partner. The approach taken by men and women online is different.

Some boys will fire off the same generic message to all the women because he wants to keep his options open and, quite often, he won’t know what he wants. Boys: please grow up, decide what you want before you make a move and be more tactful as women are constantly bombarded with messages.

Women are more selective as they are looking for someone who will not only be a good partner and companion, but also get on with her family and friends and is mature and emotionally astute.

If you are using online dating, good luck and enjoy it! I miss being single (don’t tell the other half!) as dating is fun!