4 Common Dating Myths You Need To Stop Believing

By Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman

If you can find just about anything online these days, why shouldn't that include dates? Dating on the web has been increasing in popularity thanks to apps like Tinder and Hinge, and just about anyone with a Wi-Fi connection has encountered one of these websites. Yet there's still a stigma surrounding online dating. We're here to debunk some common online-dating misconceptions. Consider us your relationship MythBusters.

Everyone Is Lying About Everything
One of the biggest widespread beliefs is that dating sites and apps are chock-full of people lying and trying to take advantage of unsuspecting singles. Although major deceptions are rare, research shows that a little exaggeration in online dating profiles is pretty common. And, we do it IRL, too: Both online and off, people are more likely to lie in a dating context than any other social situation.

The most common lies told by online daters have to do with age and physical appearance. While that may lead to a disappointment, it's certainly better than lying about, say, your relationship status. The latter tends to be rare, since people realize that serious lies are pretty likely to be uncovered.

Online Dating Is For The Desperate
Even though pretty much everyone and their mother has signed up for an online-dating app at some point, there's still a stigma attached to it. Tinderellas, Matchers, and eHarmony users are often seen as desperate and unable to get a date IRL. Even couples who have met online and ended up dating often make up a story about how they met.

Of course, this perpetuates the myth even more — happy and successful couples that met online don't share this particular detail with others. But in fact, research shows us that there are no significant personality differences between those who date online and those who date offline. There is some evidence that shows that online daters are more sensitive to rejection, but even this particular finding has been mixed.
Related: Do Your Preferences for A Romantic Partner Influence Your Actual Choice Of Romantic Partner?

A large survey looked at a nationally representative sample of recently married adults. That study found that, compared to those who met their spouses offline, those who met online were more likely to be working, Hispanic, or of a higher socioeconomic status — not exactly a demographic portrait of desperate losers.

"The most common lies told by online daters have to do with age and physical appearance."

Online Relationships Are Doomed
Another common belief is that love found online can't last. It's difficult to fully assess the long-term success of online relationships, since the concept itself is fairly new. Even so, two surveys have attempted to find out.

In a study commissioned by eHarmony, Cacciopo and colleagues surveyed a nationally representative sample of 19,131 American adults who were married between 2005 and 2012. Over one third of those marriages began with an online meeting (and about half of those occurred via a dating website). Here, couples who met online were significantly less likely to get divorced or separated than those who met offline, with 5.96% of online couples and 7.67% of offline couples ending their relationships.

However, results of another highly publicized survey suggested that online relationships are less likely to morph into marriages and more likely to break up. So what can we conclude from results that run in opposite directions?

First, the finding that couples who meet online are less likely to get married is based on an inaccurate interpretation of the data. In the survey analyzed for that paper, same-sex couples comprised 16% of the sample. They were less likely to have gotten married because, at the time that data were collected, they could not legally do so in most states. My own re-analysis of the survey data confirms that if the analysis had controlled for sexual orientation and marriage laws, there would be no evidence that couples who met online were less likely to eventually marry.

Related: Your Self-Perceived Relationship Desirability Influences Your Self-Esteem

So, the findings on longevity are somewhat mixed, with the larger study suggesting that online couples are better off. Either way, it's not exactly hard evidence that online relationships are doomed to failure.

Couples who met online do report less support for their relationships from family and friends, a factor that can lead to relationship problems, than those who met via their organic social network. But, similarly discouraging measures of social support for relationships were also reported by couples who met at bars. This suggests that the key variable isn’t so much where couples met, but who introduces them — and the extent to which they were already integrated into each other's social circles before the start of the relationship.

"Research shows us that there are no significant personality differences between those who date online and those who date offline."

Matchmaking Algorithms Are Better Than Searching On Your Own

Some sites, like eHarmony, do use some sort of algorithm to bring together two users who would be "compatible." Does this actually work, though? A review by Eli Finkel and colleagues found that there was no evidence that showed these matchmaking algorithms did a better job than any other approach. The biggest problem they found was that matchmaking algorithms rely on similarity to match people together. This is a problem because research shows personality-trait compatibility doesn't actually play a major role in the happiness of couples in the future.

What does matter? How the couple will grow and change over time, and how both partners deal with adversity and relationship conflicts. Specific dynamics and interactions with one another also hold weight, and those can't be measured by personality tests.

In another experiment studying OkCupid, it was found that there was almost no difference in the likelihood of users contacting or continuing a conversation with a "real" match (90%) than with a 30% match made to look like a 90% match. OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder claimed that "the mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth," based on this data.

The bottom line is: Online dating and dating in real life really don't show much of a difference in terms of compatibility and a couple's happiness in the future. If those concerns are keeping you from trying online dating, consider them busted.

Next: The Scientific Merits Of Tinder: Swipe Left Or Right?

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