From winking to smooching emoticons, flirting has taken a whole new face. Then scrolling through faces and composing checklists are the next step to finding new love.
Welcome to the world of online dating—the newest matchmaker system that’s taking the dating world by storm.
But do the cons of this meeting forum outweigh the pros?
You gotta meet a couple of frogs
It’s the classic online dating nightmare. After finally having the courage to set up a date with someone you’ve met online, you discover the person is not at all like how they portrayed themselves to be on their profile.
The situation is a common one, according to Suzie A., an Ottawa-based dating consultant.
“It happens a lot,” she said. “But you have to put yourself out there and risk it. That’s all part of the process.”
While an expert in the dating sphere, even Suzie has found herself in the uncomfortable situation of meeting someone who’s falsified their image online.
“I had a date who had a completely different picture on their profile,” she said. “It doesn’t start out genuine, so obviously it’s like, ‘What else are you hiding?’”
The cyber world of dating can be hard to navigate, Suzie said.
“You have to figure out who to respond to and how to weed through messages and profiles to find the right one,” she said. “Online, people are hiding behind the screen, people are less genuine.”
Plenty more fish
Thirty-eight per cent of single Americans have used online dating websites or mobile apps, according to 2013 statistics from a report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.
Public acceptance towards online dating has also risen with the development of social media, the study said.
With so many users signed up onto relationship websites, the pool of potential candidates is a large one, Suzie said.
“Online dating obviously has the benefit of having access to so many people, especially if you’re just getting out there,” she said.
The websites are a good place for people to start out, agreed Cheryl Harasymchuk, an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton whose research examines close relationships.
“With online dating, there’s a lot of advantages for relationship initiation. You get to shop around and look for people with similar interests, that meet your desires in terms of physical looks and maybe even proximity,” she said. “But relationship quality is a whole different thing.”
You’re a 98 per cent match!
Recent studies have found online dating websites, specifically those that use matching algorithms, don’t produce better outcomes or matches than the traditional means of dating, Harasymchuk said.
“They’ve found no compelling evidence that those worked out better, despite the claims of some of those sites, eHarmony as an example, that claims, ‘This is the science of relationships,’” she said.
Harasymchuk is referring to a number of online dating websites that use compatibility tests to match people together.
On eHarmony, users are paired up based on the company’s compatibility matching system.
Their scientific matching is done by assessing questionnaires which determine the user’s traits such as emotional temperament, social style, feelings on spirituality and having children.
Their matching system, the website reads, provides couples with a greater success rate for lasting, long-term relationships.
The price of love
Recent studies have suggested that online dating isn’t healthy for relationships, Harasymchuk said, because the array of choices available promotes a sort of “shopping” mentality.
“What that might do is objectify dates, which might be associated with lower commitment and ultimately lower relationship satisfaction,” she said.
This option of choice may also have an effect on the future of dating, according to Dan Slater, author of the book, Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating.
“What if the prospect of finding an ever-more compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability,” wrote Slater in an article in the Atlantic. “What if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new . . . in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?”
The broad number of choices available online also limits a more open-minded approach to dating, Harasymchuk said.
“You might get a little rigid in what you want and maybe you set your ideals way too high. Maybe you’re overlooking a certain personality trait, or a quality about them.”
There’s still a place for face-to-face
As for in-person meetings, neither of the participants are immediately aware of the other’s specific interests or their particular likes and dislikes, Harasymchuk said.
One of the benefits of meeting in-person is the face-to-face interaction.
“You’re basing it on a slow reveal of information and you might discover that you end up liking something, like a quality about a person, that you originally thought you might not like about them,” she said.
Extensive online communication made before the in-person meeting can also set a person up too high on a pedestal, Harasymchuk said.
“If it gets too long, expectations may get too high, then fall short and lower relationship quality,” she said.
Evan Roth, a first-year law student at Carleton, said meeting someone in person is key to starting a successful and long-term relationship.
He started dating his current girlfriend of two years after meeting her while walking home from school one day, he said.
“I don’t think you can get a relationship with just talking to somebody with a picture,” Roth said. “Online dating can be taken less seriously.”
In-person interaction is better than online communication, he said.
“There’s so many other things you get to see when you meet someone in person—you see if you’re attracted to them,” Roth said.
Suzie agreed meeting someone the traditional way is the better approach.
“I prefer people to meet offline because it’s more natural,” she said. “It’s kind of like chemistry—you get a feel for someone right away.”