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While categories such as "through friends", "in a bar", and "at school/work" were either declining or holding steady, one category has exploded in the last decade: "met online".According to these stats, 20 percent of heterosexual couples sampled, and nearly 70 percent of same-sex couples met this way and its growth shows no signs of abating.But is dating online that different from the traditional methods on a psychological level?For those actively looking for a relationship (or at least no-strings fun), there is no shortage of websites available, from straight up dating sites like OKCupid, e Harmony and Match to niche communities like Tastebuds (music matching), JDate (for Jewish singles) and even the eyebrow raising Clown Passions (you can guess).
The wealth of available singles flooding the mind can also cause conflation of information, and here the paper from the Association of Psychological Science is unequivocal: "browsing many profiles fosters judgemental and assessment-oriented evaluations that can cognitively overwhelm users".
All of this can be traced back to payment: a need to get your money's worth, and a fear of wasting it by getting banned. As one online dater put it, when I asked about her experience on Match.com: "It was a lot of people looking for their wife and/or trophy person.
So yeah, there were doctors and lawyers on there, but in a way their messages were inherently more creepy than what I get on OKCupid."Ah, the creepy messages.
A couple of scientific studies come to slightly more critical conclusions, one saying that a third of pictures could be considered misleading, while the other concluding that misinformation was ubiquitous but in a very mild way: an inch added to the height, or a pound taken off the weight.
Anything more obvious than this would of course cause problems when the eventual meetup occurs -- it's easy to overlook someone being an inch shorter than advertised, but night on impossible to successfully hide a five stone weight gain without repercussions.
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With no mutual friends to avoid alienating, there's less social pressures to keep behaviour in check, and it's more akin to a stranger relentlessly hitting on you in a club.