Is online dating all its cracked up to be?

Black Mirror series 2

Off the back of my blog post about online dating… Imran added a little more context by pointing at some more related stuff by Dan.

There was quite a few things I wanted to talk about when reading “A Million First Dates” by that guy again

The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?

And therefore, cue the obvious paradox of choice point

The Paradox of Choice, the psychologist Barry Schwartz indicts a society that “sanctifies freedom of choice so profoundly that the benefits of infinite options seem self-evident.” On the contrary, he argues, “a large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”

Although I’m a massive fan of choice and I have problems with Schwartz’s conclusions in the book, I can see what Dan is getting at. Theres a feeling that if it doesn’t work out you can try again easily enough. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this amount of choice has made me less likely to make things

At the selection stage, researchers have seen that as the range of options grows larger, mate-seekers are liable to become “cognitively overwhelmed,” and deal with the overload by adopting lazy comparison strategies and examining fewer cues. As a result, they are more likely to make careless decisions than they would be if they had fewer options, and this potentially leads to less compatible matches. Moreover, the mere fact of having chosen someone from such a large set of options can lead to doubts about whether the choice was the “right” one. No studies in the romantic sphere have looked at precisely how the range of choices affects overall satisfaction. But research elsewhere has found that people are less satisfied when choosing from a larger group: in one study, for example, subjects who selected a chocolate from an array of six options believed it tasted better than those who selected the same chocolate from an array of 30.

I think the comparison of chocolate and dating is a weird one. I guess if your treating dating like picking chocolates, then somethings wrong? There is a aspect of the grass is greener on the other side but I think its a maturity thing…

As online dating becomes increasingly pervasive, the old costs of a short-term mating strategy will give way to new ones. Jacob, for instance, notices he’s seeing his friends less often. Their wives get tired of befriending his latest girlfriend only to see her go when he moves on to someone else.

I don’t know if this is true but I certainly felt my parents shifting about on the other end of the phone when I talk about the last date I went on. When I would mention a woman’s name from week to week, they would sometimes say “oh you’ve mentioned her a few times.” and if I mentioned her name more than a few times “oh she sounds pretty serious?”

Also, Jacob has noticed that, over time, he feels less excitement before each new date. “Is that about getting older,” he muses, “or about dating online?” How much of the enchantment associated with romantic love has to do with scarcity (this person is exclusively for me), and how will that enchantment hold up in a marketplace of abundance (this person could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two people I’m meeting this week)?

This one is very interesting… I have to admit date after date you do loose a certain amount of excitement. The weird thing is depending on how things came about would change my level of excitement. For example meeting women through plenty of fish was not that interesting, mainly because I found them quite young and sexually motivated. OKCupid was a little more mixed but I’d admit it wasn’t like the first few months.

But its not just online dating… A lot of my other dates have been through speed dating and likewise the excitement has died down.

And its funny that I met Laura under totally different circumstances…  Also funny I met Sarah in a non-dating situation. Both I met through the medium of the internet but not via online dating… Could there be something about online dating which is slightly self destructive, for some of us? (I do know people who met and are very happy now)

If things didn’t work out with the lovely Laura, I would go back to online dating but I’ll be honest and say I was kind of fed up of it. I have met some good and very bad woman. Some of them I’m still friends with, but there is no way I feel compelled to go back to that. The notion I personally wouldn’t be as committed isn’t true in my own case. There is nothing pulling me back to that lifestyle.

It could all make a great episode of Black Mirror, endless searching and never being contented. But in reality life isn’t that complex/simple. Thoughts of love overwhelm the brain and we soon forget what it use to be like being single…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.