Why Online Dating Sites Don't Work

A pair of social psychologists say the things that make a relationship workwhat you learn about someone after you've met themcannot possibly be measured by online dating sites.

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In an analysis of 313 studies on established relationships, psychologists found that the metrics measured by online dating sites, such as personality traits and attitudes, had virtually no effect on relationship well-being. In another, more recent study, "23,000 married couples showed that similarity on the major dimensions of personality, like neuroticism, impulsivity and extroversion, accounted for a mere 0.5 percent of how satisfied spouses were with their marriages." That leaves 99.5 percent to other factors.  

What's the Big Idea?

With their match-making algorithms, online dating sites aspire to science. But social psychologists say such sites cannot possibly forecast the success of long-term relationships. That is because the things that make an established relationship tick are things people learn about each other only after they have met. Nor can online dating sites account for life stresses which deeply affect relationship stability. Online dating is no worse a method than meeting romantic partners in a bar or on the subway. But it’s no better either, say researchers.

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