When it comes to modern technology, do we always think about the effect it has on us and our relationships or do we just roll with it because everyone else seems to be doing it?
To help us think about this, researcher Paul (2014) analysed the results of a national US survey with over 4000 respondents to see if there were different relationship outcomes when using online dating and offline dating methods.
The data suggested that if you’re looking to date, online dating is the better option and if you’re looking to marry, offline dating is the better option.
The researcher states: “Contrary to previous findings, it was found that online couples had lower odds of getting married than offline couples. There are three possible reasons that can explain the tendency of online couples staying in non-marital relationships than getting married.” She goes on to explain her proposed reasons for why this trend may exist, each time citing previous research to support her analyses.
In a nutshell, the three reasons are:
1) Online dating can provide too many options to choose from which can lead to a lack of commitment to one dating partner given other potential dating partners are available. The knock-on effect is a delayed commitment to the mate they eventually choose to date exclusively. (Research by Slater, 2013, and Wu & Chiou, 2009, cited.)
2) Relationships initiated online can take more time to develop compared to relationships initiated offline given the online courtship that occurs before offline dating is entered into. As a result, for a given duration, the relationship takes longer to mature compared with offline daters’ relationships. (Research by Cacioppo et al., 2013, Farrer & Gavin, 2009, and McKenna et al. 2002, cited.)
3) Online daters tend to purposefully take more time to develop a relationship so as to increase trust given the concern that lots of online daters present falsified information. (Research by Baker, 2002, Gutkin, 2010, and Toma et al., 2008, cited.)
The researcher goes on to say: “Since exclusivity, commitment, and trust are some of the important determining factors of starting a marital relationship, the lack of these can explain the lower percentage of marriages compared to romantic relationships among online daters.
In contrast with previous research studies, these analyses also showed that online couples tended to break up more than their offline counterparts.
Using Research To Inform Your Approach To Online And Offline Dating
Does this mean that online dating is no good for you if you’re looking for marriage? Of course not, but this research is incredibly helpful as it forces us to look at the strategy being applied to dating and how to make it work for you, whichever methods you meet someone through, online or offline.
Firstly there are still a percentage of people who meet online and get married and stay happily married; you could be one of them.
Secondly, if you meet someone offline, you may still not find them to be “the one” or you may marry and get divorced. In other words, all outcomes are possibilities regardless of how you’ve met.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the researcher has highlighted how it’s the strategy that is used in online and offline settings that is creating some of the differences in outcomes.
Online dating is best used as an introduction service. Too many people, perhaps, are using it as a way of having online relationships for an overly lengthy period of time, whether that’s because they’re being lazy about going on more first dates or are afraid to or are just playing with the emotions of others for fun or are trying to build trust online instead of doing it quicker, offline.
You can learn more about a person in one or two dates than you might in one or two months of chatting online or over the phone.
Even if you have in your mind “vetted” them enough by the time you’ve met up for a first date, you still need to apply the usual safety precautions when meeting a stranger (public place, go home alone, check in with a loved one when home safe and alone, etc).
Once you’ve spent a month or two building an online relationship with someone, if it transpires that they’re not who you thought they were going to be, either due to your own assumptions or due to their misleading information, now you’ve invited negativity into your life. You’ve now lost time you’ll never get back, you’re back to square one in dating and you’ve probably been left with negative emotions about dating and, perhaps, even about yourself.
This then can have a ripple effect on how you perceive the dating game, your resilience, your attitude towards yourself, your attitude towards fellow singletons, your views on how effective online dating is, and your energy for dating.
The sooner you meet someone in person, the sooner you can decide if you should spend more of your precious time getting to know them or not and the sooner they can decide, too.
The sooner you meet someone in person, the sooner you can decide if you deem them trustworthy and want to continue building trust between you.
The sooner you meet someone in person, the sooner you start building a real relationship with them. Purely online relationships cannot do this as the non-verbal communication cues are missing which is more than half of what they’re communicating to you, and vice versa.
It’s our innate ability to use non-verbal cues that keeps us safe from danger and tell us who to build bonds with. By stripping them out of the equation for a lengthy period of time by spending too much time at the beginning in an online “relationship”, we’re instantly blocking our own path to our dating goals.
You and your fellow singletons are all in the same boat; treat them and their time with the same care and respect you want in return and with the same care and respect you would demonstrate if a loved one had paired the two of you for a date. If most people treated online dating this way, that would become the norm in online dating.
Remember, the less time you spend on the wrong matches, the less miserable you feel, and the younger you’ll be when you find your ideal partner.
Paul, A. (2014). Is Online Better Than Offline for Meeting Partners? Depends: Are You Looking to Marry or to Date? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking. 17 (10), 664-667.