Dating 2.0 Debunked

Posted on December 29, 2007
Filed Under Culture & Technology |

The modern dating scene has been impacted greatly by online dating services like and online social networks like MySpace. Back in 2003 I almost got involved with an online dating venture and thus I’ve given some thought to the online dating phenomenon a number of times over the years. After reading a Reuters article yesterday about an anthropology professor’s study of Canadian women over the age of 30 who are using online dating services, I decided that it would be worthwhile to analyze what has become a part of mainstream culture that affects the way many people are interacting and building relationships.

Why Has Online Dating Become So Popular?

I believe the popularity of online dating is driven by four primary factors:

Recognizing these things, online dating was an attractive business opportunity for me, and from a business perspective there’s no doubt that the most popular subscription-based online dating services like have reaped the financial rewards. Social networking services like MySpace, which have a different business model and aren’t explicitly about “dating,” also owe a great deal of their success to their appeal as destinations for meeting members of the opposite sex.

Does Online Dating Deliver?

Outside of the viability of online dating services as bona fide businesses, which is clearly established, I’ve listened to online dating stories and read studies about online daters with intrigue because of the social and cultural issues online dating brings up. My conclusion is that online dating may not be as helpful to singles as it would appear to be in theory. Why? There are a host of reasons:

I believe the above conclusions are fairly accurate and representative of the average online dating experience. Scientific studies are validating this. An article entitled “The Truth About Online Dating” in the February 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind, for instance, makes for a fascinating read. Among its conclusions:

Other studies have revealed equally fascinating data:

The online dating study that I have found to be the most salient was conducted by researchers at Harvard, MIT and Boston University. It addresses many of the topics discussed here but it is the conclusion that most deserves mention:

Why does online dating fail to live up to expectations? We suggest that this disappointment is due in part to a crucial mismatch between the experience of online and offline dating. Dating offline involves navigating the world together and sharing experiences, providing opportunities to engage in direct interaction and observation, allowing individuals to evaluate others for their relationship potential (Berger, 1979). Online dating, on the other hand, follows a consumer model of choice, where each option has a set of features (e.g., height, religion, hobbies) from which consumers must create an overall impression. In some sense, this is like asking people to predict the taste of food while restricting them only to the information on the packaging (grams of fat, number of calories, amount of fiber): While one might have some sense of how that food will taste, only sampling it for real can provide an accurate, holistic impression.

The study found that “Participants reported spending an average of 5.21 hours per week searching through profiles and another 6.73 hours writing and responding to emails, all for a payoff of just 1.77 hours of offline interactions.” And because online profiles aren’t great predictors for chemistry, “On average, then, people’s high expectations based on reading each other’s profiles online were not met when they met in person offline, leading to decreased enthusiasm for their partners. Even the rare real-world contact made through hours and hours of effort on online dating sites fail to live up to expectations.” In short, online dating is unfulfilling for most because it takes a considerable amount of work to produce a limited amount of real-world interaction and the real-world interactions usually aren’t memorable ones.


Online dating services provide an additional medium for meeting new people and that’s a good thing. The problem, however, is it appears that the benefits of online dating have been oversold. For lonely souls looking for love, online dating services don’t seem to be a panacea. There’s no shortcut to finding that special someone, as it will always require a little bit of luck, a lot of human interaction and a willingness to invest in building a relationship.

My personal belief is that while meeting somebody offline may be difficult for many, the benefits of meeting another person through a face-to-face interaction are considerable. Meeting online may have some perceived benefits, but there are a significant number of disadvantages and complexities that negate many of these perceived benefits. Call me a romantic, but I can’t help but think that when it comes to meeting someone special, the key to a connection is still far more likely to be a smile or a laugh than it is to be a click or a keystroke.

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7 Responses to “Dating 2.0 Debunked”

  1. Commoncents on December 30th, 2007 12:45 pm

    This is one of the best overviews of what has become a megabusiness not only for and Myspace but also Yahoo.personals,, Facebook and so many other social network sites. There is a huge community of people who could profit by the expansioon of these ideas. I believe you have the outline for a book which could be marketed to all those folks who are either considering, involved or refugees of online dating services. Give it some thought Drama 2.0, you are a terrific writer.

  2. dadshouse on March 27th, 2008 11:46 pm

    Awesome article. I think there is so much money to be made by the online dating industry, they’ll do whatever it takes to spin the sad truth of their service in a positive way.

  3. When Online Dating Doesn’t Work, Use Your DNA « Dad’s House on March 28th, 2008 2:29 am

    […] happy to share a good review of what’s wrong with online dating, citing studies and surveys to make the point. Sadly, such voices of reason tend to get drowned out […]

  4. research re: online dating « UNCABLED HEART on March 30th, 2008 5:52 pm

    […] March 30, 2008 at 10:52 pm · Filed under dating, men, relationships, single ah ha. i knew it. […]

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  6. online speed dating on May 13th, 2008 6:54 am

    I don’t know. Online dating and online speed dating seem be drawing a huge number of users and there seems to be a lot (at least some) of success stories floating around. I’ve always been of the opinion that as long as people are meeting, it’s a good thing. Maybe not a replacement for tradition dating, but it’s a plus.


  7. blog-thing : When Online Dating Doesn’t Work, Use Your DNA on September 3rd, 2008 1:01 am

    […] happy to share a good review of what’s wrong with online dating, citing studies and surveys to make the point. Sadly, such voices of reason tend to get drowned out […]

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