In this day and age, a good number of us are probably on dating apps. In fact, those who do use dating apps probably use more than just one. The world is digitising, and this area of our lives is no exception to the change—much to the dismay of people who prefer face-to-face encounters. Don’t worry though, I’m here to give you some tips on the psychology behind navigating online dating more successfully.
For those of you who are sceptical of online dating, I get it. It’s a whole new world with what seems like a whole new set of rules. Communication has more barriers, and choosing potential partners feels more superficial and more impersonal. There’s also the assumption that apps like Tinder are used just for the purposes of hooking up with people, which is definitely not true! Research into what motivates people to use Tinder has found that most people on the app actually want to find a meaningful relationship. A study conducted on university students in Wellington found that a third of the participants met someone through online dating, and about 10% of the participants formed serious relationships with people they met online. Other studies have shown also that couples who meet online are less likely to break up compared to the couples who meet in person.
Of course, it’s not all good news. One of the downsides to online dating is the amount of options that you get. This might come as a surprise, because you’d think that having more to choose from would be better, but that’s not actually the case. If you’re an indecisive person like me, the number of options might be paralysing. More choices encourages unrealistically high standards as the situation becomes more like evaluating products rather than people. This is called ‘relationshopping’ and can lead people to objectify their options. So, what happens is that more choices can result in you feeling more regret and less fulfilled. This is because when we have more choices, we start to revert back to heuristic decision-making, which would be like making decisions based on things such as people’s height, their job, or appearance—all of which don’t necessarily matter when it comes to how happy the decision would make us feel in the long-term. Having more choices also makes us feel like there might be better options out there, which leads us to regret the decisions we’ve made.
But what can you do to increase your chances of success after matching with someone online? Well, psychologists have found that the use of emojis is actually associated with more dating success, including a greater amount of first dates and more frequent sex. Now I’m not saying to go out and send strings of emojis to your matches or include an exorbitant number of emojis in your messages. Emoji use may just be one way of overcoming communication barriers in online dating. It may allow you to communicate more successfully with your match as only communicating with written words can make expressing different tones and expressions difficult, especially when you’re just starting to get to know someone you’ve never talked to before.
Another good thing to do is to meet up with your match in person as soon as possible. There’s always going to be a bit of a disconnect between interactions in person and online. When we talk to people face-to-face, we’re getting more information about the interaction through things like non-verbal cues. So, when you first meet your match in person, there will probably be a bit of awkwardness in the interaction because it’s a whole different dynamic. What actually happens is that while your knowledge about them increases after meeting them in person, some research has shown that your liking of and similarity to them may decrease. This means that you could be talking to someone online for weeks and then realise, once you meet them in person, that you don’t actually have a lot in common at all. So, when you can, you should ideally meet up in person early on to avoid that. Obviously, situations like being in lockdown does make this harder, but a way around it could be to video call so you’re still able to experience some aspects of in-person communication.
While online dating can appear to be daunting, take it from me, it’s not all that difficult to navigate. If you’re ever nervous about meeting someone, having a little stalk of their social media is harmless and can make you feel less anxious and more comfortable chatting with your match. So, if you’ve been on the fence about trying out online dating or getting back into it, this is a sign to just go for it and have some fun!