SURPRISE, SURPRISE: online dating isn’t the lonely heart’s cure-all we might think it is. Do we still think it is? I thought we had already established that online dating sites were a breeding ground for everything that is wrong with the world right now, but now there’s evidence that suggests online dating doesn’t really work. Researchers from Stanford and Michigan State University wanted to test the success rates of nonmarital romantic relationships formed online to see if using dating websites like eHarmony, Match, and Zoosk actually results in long-term relationships. After surveying 4,002 people, the data showed that couples who met online had a greater chance of a future break up than those who met offline, and we’re all going to die alone, probably.
The study confirms what anyone who has ever used OKCupid for five minutes can tell you: there are waywaywaywayway too many people online to choose from, and because users are sifting and swiping through so many potential matches, it takes longer to initiate the actual relationship than it does offline. There’s no way to know who’s a creep, who’s a clinger, who’s a robot, who’s living in their mom’s basement, or still has a bit on the side, and taking the extra time to sort through these details before even meeting the person is inefficient, not only because of the time it takes, but because of the likelihood that couples will eventually break up anyway. By the time you’re actually sitting across from someone having drinks, you’ve already gone through all manner of flirty getting-to-know-you crap online only to immediately realize this person is THE WORST, you’ve lost all kinds of valuable time on a relationship that probably wasn’t going to work anyway when you could be sitting at home eating that leftover pizza you just remembered was in the fridge. Meeting someone in real life will get you more bang for your buck, as in you will increase the likelihood of long-term, meaningful banging with a person you can see yourself caring about.
Another reason researchers cite for the discrepancy in success rates in online and offline couples is the lessening of the stigma once associated with online dating. Sending a message to a stranger online isn’t the same as finally going up to that person who’s been eyeing you all night and asking for their number, not that I do either of those things because I’m a sexless shut-in, but the study suggests that people don’t put that much thought into their romantic online interactions, which prevents the relationship from ever really going anywhere. With so many options available, there’s less pressure to be exclusive right away because we think we can be choosy, when the truth is the choices (as determined by algorithms) aren’t that great. That’s not to say that normal, decent people don’t use online dating sites, just that I’ve gotten a lot of messages like “Show me your tits”, “When are we having sex?” and “I wanna f**k your face.” And the people you already work or go to school with or are already part of your daily routine and interests are less likely to to tell you they want to f**k your face. Usually.
The study does emphasize that, while you may have to sift through a lot of unpleasantness, and you will probably become discouraged by the fact that the people you meet offline can also be kind of shitty to date, it’s not impossible to find a happy, long-term relationship online as long as couples take their time to really get to know each other and don’t marry someone they met on the internet three weeks ago. Seems fair, though I’m kind of cool with the idea of living out the rest of my days surrounded by my twelve cats.