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Does Online Dating Make You Luckier at Love?

New Review Delves Into Claims of Relationship Success Made by Internet Dating Sites
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Is Dating Different if It Starts Online? continued...

Online dating came to the masses in 1995, when the web site Match.com launched. Back then, only about 4% of couples reported meeting online. Now that number is closer to 23%. That makes online dating the second most popular way singles now get together. The first is a set-up through friends.

Industry analysts say online dating sites now take in about $1 billion annually.

“The difference between what’s happened just 15 years ago and now is astounding,” Hall says. “We’re looking at a sea change in people’s attitudes about the role of online dating in our world.”

The Problem of Too Much Choice

Reis and his four co-authors, all recognized experts on courtship and dating, found evidence that having many potential partners to consider at the same time changes the way people evaluate their dating choices.

In particular, Reis says, people who have many choices to consider often switch on something called an assessment mindset. In assessment mindsets, people pick things or make decisions by comparing them to their other choices.

The alternative is something called a locomotion mindset, where people make decisions based on whether or not something or someone is likely to help them reach their goals.

Studies of couples have shown that too much assessment leads people to be critical and unsupportive of their partners and pessimistic about the future of their relationships.

The review says that online dating sites foster assessment mindsets and undermine locomotion mindsets. That’s not always a great way to find a romantic partner, Reis says.

“It’s like going through a catalog and shopping for a pair of pants in the L.L.Bean catalog. Finding a partner is not the same thing. The pants don’t smile back at you. The pants don’t interact with you to see if your values mesh. You need to take a very different approach.”

Does Compatibility Matching Work?

Recognizing that having too many choices may not be a good way to look for a serious relationship, some sites, like eHarmony.com and Chemistry.com, offer to narrow the field.

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