**The author of this blog is not affiliated with any dating website or mobile app. Any website or app listed below is to provide examples to the reader and does not benefit the author in any way.**
Many of the participants in our singles class called PICK a Partner have asked for information about dating online. This is not surprising, as many people use online websites and apps to help them find people to date. I know several people who have successfully used dating apps to find their partner. There are benefits to using online dating, such as access to a wider pool of potential partners with similar interests and views as you. Here are some tips supported by research to help you safely use online dating websites and apps to find a partner!
How Dating Websites and Apps Work
These tools can be separated into three types based on the way they generate matches for you. The three types are algorithm, see-and-screen, and blended design.
Websites or apps that are algorithm types use an equation (algorithm) to find potential partners for you. You typically answer questions about your likes, interests, hobbies, and personality to pair you with someone who is similar, or complementary. The site or app then shows you your best match. eHarmony.com is an example of a website that uses an algorithm to find you matches.
The second type is see-and-screen. As a user, you can scroll through profiles of other users on the site to find people you may be interested in dating or contacting. These sites often have different filters that can be applied to help narrow down choices by preference. Match.com and PlentyofFish.com are examples of see-and-screen websites. Tinder is a see-and-screen design that is filtered by location and age.
A blended type combines features of the algorithm and see-and-screen types. The site will use an equation to narrow down your choices, but they show more profiles than the true algorithm design. This allows you to scroll through the matches and choose one you are interested in, giving you more control and choices. Okcupid.com is a blended design.
Which One Should You Use?
Think about your own personality and which type would suit you the most. Do you like to have a lot of options? See-and-screen sites might be a better fit for you. Perhaps you want to be reassured of your choice. Algorithm or blended designs may provide the reassurance that you are seeking.
Another aspect to consider before selecting a website or app to use is the typical audience using that website or app. You want the population using the site to be one that you are interested in dating. For example, if you are in your 20s, you may want to use Tinder or OKcupid because these are the most commonly used sites among millennials and GenXers. Adults in their 40s-60s are more likely to use paid subscription websites such as eHarmony.com. There are also dating websites and apps that are tailored to specific interests or religions (e.g., JDate.com). Finally, Match.com, Okcupid.com, and PlentyofFish.com are the most popular dating sites around the world. This means that they offer the most potential matches for you. If this is something that is important to you, you may want to try one of these three sites.
More Tips for Online Dating
- Less may actually be more when it comes to online dating. It is common when presented with more options, people make worse decisions for themselves. This may be because we become overwhelmed with the amount of information and options that it becomes hard to make a good decision. You may want to use filters on see-and-screen websites to limit options to three to five profiles to choose from, or only view a certain number of profiles per day. You may even want to use a website or app that narrows your choices down for you. This may help you make better decisions for yourself.
- Try to meet face-to-face with a person as soon as you can. The longer you communicate through online or electronic means (email, text, or the site messaging features), the more time there is for you to build up your expectations about the person. Your expectations could continue to rise and when you finally do meet, these expectations may not be met. People often report being disappointed with a date after meeting face-to-face. You can lessen the chance of disappointment by meeting sooner rather than later.
- Most people don’t lie online. There may be some self-enhancing that goes on, but most people don’t lie about themselves because their goal is usually to meet in-person. Meeting in-person would make any lies (e.g., about their physical attributes) very apparent. Additionally, those who wish to establish a long-term relationship wouldn’t lie about themselves because this is at odds with the goal of creating a relationship. However, there may be some who lie online or try to take advantage of you. Here are some tips to keep you safe:
- Don’t share your personal contact information right away, and especially don’t share where you live or work. You may want to wait until after meeting them in person and getting to know them.
- Go on a first (and even 2nd or 3rd) date(s) in public places. Also, you may want to tell at least one friend or neighbor the name of the person you are meeting, what you plan on doing, and contact them when you have made it safely home after the date.
- Search for the person online. Use a search engine (Google or Bing) and put in their name. Their name should match what they have been telling you along with the pictures on their profile. Be wary of verifying their information using social media as they could create a fake social media account to match the information they tell you, but social media profiles can still be a useful tool in searching for information.
- If they ask for money, absolutely DON’T send it!
- It takes time. Many users of online dating will use the site for a while, become frustrated, take a break for a month or two, and then come back to try again. If you experience this, it is very normal!
Remember that dating websites and apps are simply a tool for finding potential partners. You will still have to do the work of getting to know them, going on dates, and establishing a relationship – most of which happens offline. If you use these online dating tools wisely, they may result in a great partner. Best of luck to you!
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Wotipka, C.D., & High, A.C. (2016). An idealized self or the real me? Predicting attraction to online dating profiles using selective self-presentation and warranting. Communication Monographs, 83 (3), 281-302.
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