The Impact of Online Dating on human behaviour

To our regret or maybe maybe fortunately, the days when Vivian Ward meets Mr. Lewis randomly when he parks on the side of the road and they end up in a burning romance are less and less probable. People transitioned to more sophisticated ways to find partners based on computer algorythms and using their best pictures. With Match.com, Tinder, Plenty of Fish and an endless list of portals becoming online outlets of love, in search for a potential date, some people end up finding what they are looking for and others emotionally shattered. No matter the outcome, one thing is clear, online dating is changing the way in which people go about deciding what partners would be appropriate for them.

Economists believe that a rational person behaves according to rational choice theory by calculating the potential costs and benefits of each decision before they are made (Scott, 2000). It makes sense to think that in an online environment people would base their estimation of potential benefits on the available information, which can creeate an incomplete reflection of the reality even in the circumstances when the person on the other side of the screen is completely truthful with the information they present. However, especially in a ‘mate selection driven environment’, the social desirability bias, or peoples tendency to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others, is the cognitive factor that makes people present themselves in a more glowing light to others. For instance, an analysis effectuated on the dating portal OkCupid concluded that men lie about their height, reporting, on average, that they are about two inches taller than they are. Also, people exaggerate their income, on average inflating it by about 20 percent.

An advantage of the progress of online dating is the decreased stigma towards the idea of using technology to interact with people. Rather than being unpredictable and dangerous as sometimes stereotyped, internet dating can actually keep people safer, as they have more control over the kind of people they can potentially match or meet with. Compared to traditional dating, which involves some degree of uncertainity in regards to ones background interests and details of their personal life, internet dating is facilitating matching of people with similar interests (Eastwick, Finkel & Eagly, 2011).

While it is almost impossible to analyse and evaluate all the costs and benefits of dating someone online or just having to swipe left/right on their profile, the people you meet this way are unlikely to enter your life in any other context. As long as people stay open to possibilities and are flexible in their communication and attitudes towards each other, the possibility to connect to each other and find meaningful relationships is practically endless.

References:

  • Eastwick, P.W, Finkel, E.J & Eagly, A.H. (2011). When and Why Do Ideal Partner Preferences Affect the Process of Initiating and Maintaining Romantic Relationships?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 101(5), 1012-1032.
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