I was recently reading an article from Money Talk News about how online dating produces stronger marriages. The author quoted a study stating that online dating tended to lead to more satisfying relationships because the people that used these services tended to have better impulse control, motivation for a long-term relationship, and were more selective in their choice of potential mates.
Then I read another article about how dating sites’ claims that their mathematical algorithms lead to happier relationships is completely bunk. Critics say there’s no research that supports any of these claims that dating sites have found some sort of scientific secret to matchmaking.
So what gives? Is online dating worth it?
Online Dating: Searching for True Love as a Hobo
I met my husband online four years ago and we were married last October. I owe the beginnings of my be-yoo-tiful relationship to my love of wearing homeless clothes. Seriously, my desire to look like a hobo created a perfect opportunity for me to find a boyfriend-turned-husband. How so? Observe:
One of the pros of online dating is that I could search for true love while wearing a ratty t-shirt and dodgy sweatpants in the comfort of my own home. I would park myself on the couch, boot up my laptop and commence Operation Soul Mate with a rerun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer playing in the background.
Now I’m not an isolated shut-in living in some shack, à la Unabomber, but I enjoy hobbies that cut down on eye contact and meaningful conversation. I find that after eight hours of saving the world in my social work job, I’m pretty much done engaging with people. I have friends and I do go out and have fun but I like my alone time.
Cue online dating. I can get the ball rolling from the comfort of my living room – complete with homeless clothes. Drive-thru order dating, coming right up!
Online Dating: eHarmony and the Cost of Finding Everlasting Love
There’s a tonne of different online dating services ranging from Plenty of Fish, free and easy to sign-up for, to eHarmony, expensive and labour-intensive to join. Reportedly, Match.com and eHarmony are the most popular sites for meeting and greeting your potential Mr. or Mrs. Perfect.
eHarmony: I signed up for this site and ran the gamut of their 300 question survey that gauged my personality and measured my best matches across “29 dimensions of compatibility”. You’re going to want to set aside two hours and a whole lot of patience to slog through this process.
Also, eHarmony will cost you. A lot. For one month, you’re looking at $59.95 for one month, $39.95 for three months, and so on down to $19.95 twelve months (each price is based on per month).
I signed up for the three months and got a lot of interesting matches. You also get to skip the inevitable “ermahgerd, u r so hot” that you get with some of the cheaper and free sites because eHarmony doesn’t seem to have that same super-young sketchy guy/girl set.
The other good thing about eHarmony is that the whole process forces you to think carefully about what you look for in a partner. All of a sudden, you’re thinking about extrovert vs introvert; independence vs togetherness; openness to new experience vs love of routine. It can be a good trip down psychology lane.
Generally I found eHarmony to be too much of a production. After you went through signing up and filling out their surveys, there’s a whole song and dance involved in starting a conversation with a potential match called “guided communication”.
“Guided communication” takes you through three stages of question exchanges and top ten “must have” and “can’t stand” lists. There’s just way too much science and math sitting in the middle of my social interactions. To be fair, you can “fast track” your communication and skip over rigmarole.
Most other sites like Match.com, Lavalife, or Plenty of Fish have free options that let you explore their sites to varying degrees. However, “quality” pre-packaged dating choices are going to cost you – much like it’s convenience food equivalent.
Online Dating: Relationships with Dressing on the Side
One of the biggest complaints I’ve read about online dating is that it takes romance out of the equation. All of a sudden, it’s about surveys, profiling, and algorithms.
It’s about strategically chosen pictures and the perfectly crafted profile. It’s a consumer product that you can customize – hair colour, height, weight, white, black. You name it, you can search it.
There’s usually some sort of time factor involved in your custom orders as well. Often, when you see advertisements for sites like eHarmony or Match.com, it goes like this: professional woman has a busy and important schedule that’s too full to find love in the traditional sense. Enter stage left: Online dating site to save the day! .
Luckily, woman manages to find time to go for coffee and the next thing you know there are pictures of the happy couple laughing together and riding a bicycle built for two on a sun-drenched beach. Science can now find you the perfect partner so you don’t have too! Love according to your preferences – and your timetable!
I say ‘Bah!’ People who don’t have time to meet people because they’re too busy probably don’t have time to date or have a relationship either. I liked online dating because I got to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise have met within my social circle. Loving the convenience of being able to meet people online is one thing, being too focused on my career or other priorities to make time is another.
Also, I think there’s lots of room for romance despite the questionnaires and algorithms. It might look different than two people who met squeezing melons in the produce aisle of the grocery store but there are still all the same steps to meeting someone in ‘the real’. Just because I know that my intended coffee date likes thai food and the colour blue before our first real introduction doesn’t mean there isn’t mystery or excitement when you first meet.
Regardless of whether you met your dream date through super-science or you made eye contact across a crowded room, love can grow where ever it’s planted. Online dating might seem too 21st Century, too consumerist, and too sanitized but I’m a true believer that people will always find a way to make it work – no matter what the package. Happy hunting!
For my paired-off people, how did you meet? For my single mingles, have you tried online dating?
PS – I met husband on Lavalife
*Images used under a Creative Commons Licence (Flickr)