But there are certain properties of online dating that actually work against love-seekers, the researchers found, making it no more effective than traditional dating for finding a happy relationship.“There is no reason to believe that online dating improves romantic outcomes,” says Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at University of Rochester and one of the study’s co-authors.That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as profiles can help quickly weed out the obviously inappropriate or incompatible partners (who hasn’t wished for such a skip button on those disastrous real-life blind dates?), but it also means that some of the pleasure of dating, and building a relationship by learning to like a person, is also diluted.The industry has been successful, of course — and popular: while only 3% of Americans reported meeting their partners online in 2005, that figure had risen to 22% for heterosexual couples and 6% for same-sex couples by 2007-09.
The fact that candidates are screened via their profiles already sets up a judgmental, “shopping” mentality that can lead people to objectify their potential partners.
Most people cite attractiveness as key to a potential romantic connection when surveying profiles online, but once people meet face to face, it turns out that physical appeal doesn’t lead to more love connections for those who say it is an important factor than for those who say it isn’t.
Once potential partners meet, in other words, other characteristics take precedence over the ones they thought were important.
Stronger predictors of possible romance include the tenor of their conversations, the subject of their discussions, or what they choose to do together.
“Interaction is a rich and complex process,” says Reis.
But social science studies have found that such a priori predictors aren’t very accurate at all, and that the best prognosticators of how people will get along come from the encounters between them.