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But in real life, after we get to know someone and like their personality, we begin to find them more physically appealing as well (Kniffin & Wilson, 2004).Making a quick decision based on an online photo doesn’t allow for this slower development of physical attraction and may cause us to dismiss potential mates to whom we could become attracted.But this can also lead you to pass up on potential dates because with all those options, you can't help but think, "There must be someone better out there." Online dating sites can thus foster an attitude in which potential mates are objectified like products on a store shelf, rather than people (Finkel et al., 2012). Online profiles are missing vital information you can only glean in person (Finkel et al., 2012), so it can be difficult to know if you’re really compatible with someone based solely on what they have shared on a dating site.Research shows that people spend their time on dating sites searching criteria such as income and education, and physical attributes like height and body type, when what they need is information about the actual experience of interacting with and getting to know the person on the other end of the profile (Frost et al., 2008).It is well documented that physical attractiveness is a major factor in romantic attraction, especially initial attraction (Sprecher, 1989).Not surprisingly, physically attractive people are more successful at online dating (Hitsch et al., 2005).The same principle applies to online dating: The sheer number of potential partners creates abundant choice.So if one dater doesn’t suit the bill, there are hundreds more who could be better.
Romantic relationships often do develop slowly, rather than taking off from instant mutual attraction. While I think the sites have gotten better about identifying and booting scammers, I have been "scammed" more than a few times by miscreants, usually foreigners, who prey on lonely hearts, particularly those who list their professions and incomes.I found that those who met their partners via online dating sites became romantically involved significantly sooner (an average of two-and-a-half months) than those who met in other ways (an average of one-and-a-half years). Typically, they post old photos from when they were 100 pounds lighter and 10 years younger, or they post photos that hide their body shape, which is not just a physical attribute, but a commentary on their lifestyle.This suggests that online dating sites don’t facilitate slowly finding love the way that we often do offline. As mentioned earlier, those who are introverted or shy may find online dating more palatable than other ways of looking for love. I've had more than a few claim to love physical fitness and healthy eating, only to confess upon meeting, at which point it becomes obvious, that they actually do neither.A recent survey of 19,000 people who married between 20 found that 35 percent of these new couples met online, with about half of those meeting through an online dating site (Cacioppo et al., 2013).How can these sites help you find romance, and what pitfalls should you be aware of?