Psychologists highlight pitfalls of online dating By Amanda Gardner, Health. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. The review stresses that websites are a valuable resource for daters -- as long they don't put too much stock in the profiles. Story highlights Dating websites may warp a person's outlook and expectations, according to a new review One of the weaknesses of online dating is an over reliance on "profiles" The abundance of profiles online also may make daters too picky and judgmental Thanks to the proliferation of online dating, would-be couples are now almost as likely to meet via email or a virtual "wink" as they are through friends and family.
In , when the Internet was still in its infancy, less than 1 percent of Americans met their partners through personal ads or matchmaking services. Single people have more options than ever before, as websites such as Match. But that may have a downside. According to a new review of online dating written by a team of psychologists from around the country, dating websites may warp a person's outlook and expectations in ways that can actually lower the chances of building a successful relationship.
It allows people access to potential partners they otherwise would not have," says Eli J. Although most dating websites feature photos and detailed, searchable profiles covering everything from personality traits to likes and dislikes, this information isn't necessarily useful in identifying a partner, Finkel and his coauthors write.
That's partly because daters don't always know what they want in a mate -- even though they generally think they do. Studies suggest that people often lack insight into what attracts them to others and why , and therefore the characteristics they seek out in an online profile may be very different from those that will create a connection in person, the review notes.
Finding love online, despite health problems "Pretty much all of online dating works through profiles," says Finkel, an associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, and the ease with which people can sift through profiles -- and click on to the next one -- may lead them to "objectify" potential partners and compare them like so many pairs of shoes.
Communicating via email or instant message before meeting in person doesn't always cure this problem. Some online communication is a good thing, the researchers say, but too much of it can skew expectations and ultimately sabotage a match. People tend to read too much into emails and other online conversations, which increases the potential for misunderstandings and disappointment, they point out. Some services, such as eHarmony and PerfectMatch.
The authors of the review are skeptical of these claims. They weren't able to find a single rigorous study showing the effectiveness of the algorithms, and other research suggests it's extremely difficult to predict the likelihood that a relationship will succeed before two people meet.
To make matters worse, Finkel and his colleagues say, these algorithm-based services may encourage a counterproductive "destiny" mindset that prizes initial compatibility over other factors that are important to the long-term health of a relationship, such as the social and economic support individuals offer each other, or their ability to cope with stressful life events.
None of this, however, means that online dating isn't a good way to meet people. The review stresses that websites are a valuable resource for daters -- as long as a person doesn't put too much stock in the profiles or matchmaking claims.
Finkel, for one, advises online daters to identify promising partners and move the conversation off-line as quickly as possible. Can you feel simpatico with that person?