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The future of online dating?

Tags: online dating, online relationship advice

A new report from the Imperial College Business School and online dating service eHarmony, has predicted that, by 2040, almost 70% of relationships will be formed by people who met online.

We’re taking a look at the wider research that’s been done on this topic, to bring you some evidence-based tips on how to navigate the world of online dating as it takes a bigger role in the way we meet people.

In many ways, online dating can make things much easier, streamlining the process and removing some of the challenges associated with meeting people offline.

Flirting with someone face to face can be quite stressful, especially if you feel self-conscious or nervous about meeting new people. If that sounds like you, it might feel like a big risk to put yourself in front of someone you find attractive and try to make it clear that you’re interested.

Meeting people in an online environment takes a bit of that pressure off. Using a dating website takes a lot of the ambiguity out of your intentions, and might help you put yourself out there in a way that feels less vulnerable than approaching people out in the world [1].

On the flip side, the emotional distance created by the online space also makes it easier for the less pleasant aspects of dating like a hasty break-up or an ‘emotional brush-off’ [2].

The ability to break up with someone via text message or email has meant we’ve already seen an increase in passive break-ups like changing a Facebook status to ‘single’ or just stopping communication [3].

Online dating may also open you up to a wider pool of people when looking to meet someone new. You have the opportunity to interact with people you might otherwise never have met, and have a short-cut to getting to know each other.

The not-so-good news is that the algorithms used by dating sites to match you to people with similar interests will probably not be much of an indicator of how well you’ll actually get on when you meet [4], so you’ll still have to be willing to get out there and take a risk!

One of the big challenges of this accelerated form of dating is that many people tend to make quite quick assessments based on cursory readings of online profiles [5]. This has the knock-on effect of encouraging online daters to boast or exaggerate in their profiles to try and appeal to potential romantic partners [6].

However… before you rush to create a souped-up online version of yourself to wow potential partners, it’s worth considering the impact your exaggerations may have when people meet you in real life. If you don’t match up to the profile you presented online, you may be sent packing [6] [7].

So, if you’re looking to meet someone online, make sure you get to know people in real life before you get too excited, be prepared to take a chance, and try to be yourself. After all, wouldn’t you prefer to meet someone who appreciates you for who you really are?



[1] Cummings, J. N., Butler, B., & Kraut, R. (2002). The quality of online social relationships. Communications of the ACM, 45(7), 103-108.

[2] Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be programmed: Ten commands for a digital age. Or Books.

[3] Collins, T. J., & Gillath, O. (2012). Attachment, breakup strategies, and associated outcomes: The effects of security enhancement on the selection of breakup strategies. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(2), 210-222.

[4] Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online Dating A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66.  

[5] Heino, R. D., Ellison, N. B., & Gibbs, J. L. (2010). Relationshopping: Investigating the market metaphor in online dating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(4), 427-447.

[6] Whitty, M. T. (2008). Revealing the ‘real’me, searching for the ‘actual’you: Presentations of self on an internet dating site. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(4), 1707-1723.

[7] Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self‐presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415-441.

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  • User-anonymous AngelaDean Flag

    I met my partner online, and I don't think it's the best way really. Asides the fake profiles etc, I find that even today there are a lot of wierdos out there online. Meeting someone from a different town and having no mutual friends is also a downside to online dating. and it takes some time to realise that you don't know your partner as well as you would like. I love my bf unconditionally but I feel there is something missing. I have bought him a book off Amazon for Valentine's day to see if it may do the trick. It's called "How to make a woman happy" and its written by Denis Hickey.

    Mon 25, Jan 2016 at 6:26pm