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Is Online Dating Turning Singles Into Commodities?

Studies
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Ask those who have tried online dating and most will agree: it does expand your social circles. Through the swipe of a screen or click of a button, you have plenty of new people to meet that you wouldn’t encounter if you only relied on friends and family members to set you up on dates. But sometimes despite all these opportunities, online dating is an overwhelming, confusing and even disappointing experience.

A recent article in Mic.com looked deeper into this phenomenon, asking psychologists what they make of online dating, and citing studies that maintain it’s not necessarily productive in terms of finding a long-term relationship.

There have been studies about how too many choices can overwhelm us to the point of paralysis. In a 2010 study by Psychological Science, researchers found that when we have too many choices in dating we often don’t make good decisions. They likened it to shopping: when consumers are faced with too many brands of product, whether it’s laundry detergents or chocolate, our brains become overwhelmed, which leads us to make poorer choices. In other words, we buy the detergent based on the pretty packaging, not the quality of ingredients or how effectively it cleans clothes.

The study focused on 84 different speed dating events of different sized groups. Those who met 24 or more potential dates in one night tended to feel overwhelmed, and they made decisions about who to date based solely on physical characteristics like height and weight. However at the smaller events, people felt less overwhelm, and made decisions about who to date based on non-physical characteristics, such as sense of humor, education, and career.

As one of the researchers said, “There are constraints on what our brains can do – they’re quite powerful, but they can’t pay attention to everything at once.”

And online dating has only gotten more confusing and overwhelming since dating apps like Tinder have taken over the market. People swipe left and right with little inner guidance about their choices – almost as if they are dating on auto-pilot.

The good news is, we have more choice when it comes to meeting people – we can go outside of our own circles. But we also have to understand that while there seems to be an endless supply of potential dates – and therefore it seems there’s always someone “better” to meet – we are also limiting our love lives. Taking a shopping mentality to dating prevents us from living in the present, and from enjoying the company of someone we’re getting to know. Not everyone is going to be a romantic match, but usually it takes more than one or two dates to get to know someone.

Take your time. There’s no rush. It’s time to enjoy online dating – one person at a time.