November 20th, 2017

The (Behavioral Economics) Problem with Online Dating

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Swipe left, swipe right.

If you’re one of the millions of people looking to find love online, you’ve probably turned to swipe-based dating apps – and have been doing more swiping than meeting up for coffee.

And Dan Ariely wants to show you why.

Ariely – a behavioural economist and bestselling author – examines the tantalizing world of online dating in his book, The Upside of Irrationality. Despite using the most sophisticated technology and psychographics, Ariely suggests that the online dating market structure is fundamentally flawed.

The Problem with Online Dating

Even though more users are swiping their way to love, a very small percentage of these interactions result in actual dates. Instead, more time is spent sorting through hundreds of profiles, as opposed to meeting people face-to-face. And once you actually do end up meeting, the encounter is often less than ideal.

One of the main issues with online dating is that it doesn’t account for human tendencies or limitations. Most dating sites and apps reduce you to nothing but brief essays and a collection of statistics – which provide no tangible insight into what you’re like as a person. For instance, imagine trying to determine what a certain snack might taste like, just by reading the nutrition facts label. That’s, essentially, how the online dating market currently operates.

In one of his experiments, Ariely and his colleagues created a dating site where users communicated solely via instant messaging. They shared experiences that they found on the site, such as a film clip or a piece of artwork. What Ariely’s team discovered was that more users were going on real-world dates – at nearly twice the rate of a traditional dating site. This proves what you may have already suspected: you connect best when you’re sharing experiences with another person, rather than the two of you simply taking about yourselves.

When you connect with other people, you share parts of yourself – parts that you may have forgotten or hidden due to fear or insecurities. But when you release those fears and learn to trust other people, then you’ll find genuine connection.

The Importance of Genuine Connections

We’re spending hours on dating apps and social media platforms, yet ironically, we’re lonelier and more disconnected than ever. Our longing for human connections is at odds with our instant gratification society.

Making connections and building relationships takes time; some of your most treasured relationships probably took years to develop. However, in a world where you’re communicating in 280 characters or less, you’re used to things happening right away.

But you need genuine human connections to feel happy and fulfilled. We all yearn for connection, even if it may complicate our lives a little bit. Engaging in lively discussions, for example, helps you expand upon your ideas. And meeting someone new brings opportunities for collaboration and networking that didn’t exist before.

Life is so much more satisfying when you make genuine connections.

How to Make Genuine Connections

When making connections, the aim is to be perceived as genuinely as possible. Forcing a connection or moulding it to be something it’s not will only end in disappointment. The key to making a genuine connection is openness.

Here are some tips to help you make that connection:

  • Let it happen randomly. Whenever you randomly meet someone, try to remain open. Leave any judgements or biases aside and simply enjoy the encounter. Even if it doesn’t last, it just might brighten your day.
  • Make the time. Nurturing genuine connections takes time. Although work, projects, and other commitments are important, you must also make the time to develop new connections.
  • Accept them for who they are. Let go of any expectations of the other person and just explore who they are. Be curious and accepting.
  • See what happens. Don’t try to force an agenda. It’s not a task or a goal – it’s a connection.
  • Show your true self. Vulnerability takes courage. Instead of putting on a mask or persona, let your personality shine through. Let them know the real you.

Be Genuine

You’re more than just a pretty face. And you can’t be boxed into a profile, either. Share your experiences with others, and let them see your true self. Your connections will be far more genuine and enjoyable.