"...it takes a certain kind of personality to enjoy the constant interaction, flirtation, and rejection that goes on [in online dating]." Julia Flood
4 Myths About Online Dating
by Julia Flood, LCSW
Recently a reporter interviewed me for a piece they were doing
on online dating. At first I was a bit stumped. As a couples therapist I tend
to deal with people who already have a partner, and many of my individual
therapy clients report a great variety of positive and negative dating
experiences, whether they started online or off. So rather than purely going by
anecdotal evidence, I reviewed a few formal studies, and especially the
findings of a 2011 German study are worth sharing. 4 common beliefs in
particular appear to be myths.
Myth #1: People using online dating services are predominantly
young and male
This may have been true a decade ago for internet users in
general, but as the internet has become mainstream, so has online dating. These
days men and women use online dating about equally, and people around 40 years
of age are the most active online daters. A plausible explanation for this
might be that it is relatively difficult for people of this age group to find a
romantic partner via more traditional strategies. Singles in this age group are
often divorced and need to combine children with a busy career. In fact,
divorcees are more than 3 times as likely to use a dating site.
Myth #2: People using online dating can’t find a partner
This cliché goes into a similar direction. Online dating is not
the domain of lonely and socially anxious people, at least not in their own
estimation. According to the survey, online dating seems to be an activity
particularly of individuals who are low in dating anxiety. Men and women
in the online survey were more likely to report self-assessed attractiveness
and felt less "unattractive" than respondents in the offline survey.
Many online daters characterized themselves as very attractive, and seem to use
the internet merely as an additional and exciting dating market. For people who
are already sociable, using the internet as a dating method is just one more
tool at their disposal. High self-esteem folks feel like they have little to
lose by trying internet dating, while low self-esteem folks feel they have more
to lose, since more of their own self-value is tied up in the process.
Myth #3: You can’t find anyone good online
In the German study about 1/3 of men and 44% of women reported
having previously found a partner via the internet. They were asked what kind
of relationship they had had with the partner they had found, and whether the
partner they met on the internet had fulfilled their expectations. At least 56%
of respondents reported that their expectations were fulfilled at least
sometimes, often, or even every time.
Myth #4: Online romantic relationships don’t last
Finding a partner who fulfills your expectations is one thing,
but what about the stability of the relationship? Can online dating provide a
stable and lasting partnership, compared to relationships that started offline?
The participants in the German study were asked whether they had declared their
love to their partner, and whether the couple plans to set up a common
household. Neither indicator revealed any important differences between couples
who met online or offline.
In 2011 the internet dating site eHarmony published findings of their own
as to whether relationships that
started via their dating site lasted. They asked couples who had met on
eHarmony whether they had ever discussed divorce. Even
though eHarmony couples seemed to have been the least likely to discuss
divorce, they were not statistically different from those who met at
church/place of worship, work/school, or through family/friends. As far as actual divorce rates, it didn’t
seem to matter all that much how the couple met. If anything, according to their report, eHarmony couples
seemed to be less likely to get divorced, compared to those who met through
friends, school, and especially those who met at a bar.
the above beliefs are myths, a lot more research will need to be done in the
coming years, especially regarding the question of whether online dating is
worth all the time and money people put into it. I don’t believe internet dating is for
everyone. As discussed with Myth # 2, it takes a certain kind of personality to
enjoy the constant interaction, flirtation, and rejection that goes on once the
internet is involved. But at least it’s good to know for those of us that do
use the tool that we aren’t the exception, aren’t weird or socially inept, and
aren’t completely kidding ourselves when we try to go the online route to find
a serious partner.
SCHMITZ et al.: Myths And Facts About Online Mate Choice.
Contemporary Beliefs And Empirical Findings, in: Zeitschrift fuer
Familienforschung (Journal of Family Research), Volume 23, Number 3, 2011
GONZAGA: How You Meet Your Spouse Matters, 2001,
Julia Flood, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in San Francisco's Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood. She has been working in the mental health field since 1996 and specializes in couples therapy/marriage counseling, helping partners in crisis to break out of the vicious cycle of hurting and being hurt. You can find out more about Julia on her website:www.newstarttherapy.com, or by calling (415) 820-3210 to arrange an initial phone consultation. She is bilingual in English and German.
Labels: Julia Flood, online dating, Relationships