How instant gratification may triumph over long lasting relationships

Online Dating and Social SkillsOnline dating has become a very popular and profitable service in Australia, with dozens of local and international websites offering dating services to Australians. According to the ACCC 2015 Online Dating Report, Australia’s online dating services earned $113.3 million in 2014-15, with total membership numbers passing 4.6 million across all major services.

But is this move to digital dating–with its abundance of choice and low effort requirements–eroding our ability to form and maintain meaningful connections?

Following the path of least resistance

According to clinical psychologist Dr Matthew Worthington, humans naturally seek the path of least resistance, where they can find a satisfactory result while conserving as much effort and energy as possible.

One of the reasons online dating has become so popular is that it requires so much less effort than traditional ways of meeting people. Prior to online dating, people had to go out to meet prospective partners, which required significant time and effort to get ready and arrive at the venue, where you might only find a handful of people to talk to. Online dating requires little preparation beyond making a profile, after which you can easily connect with dozens of potential partners every day, all from your computer or smartphone.  The initial lack of actual face to face social interaction involved in online dating also reduces the potential pain associated with any possible rejection. In addition, the large quantity of “fish” (dates) that are available decreases the sense of pressure and further buffers against feelings of rejection.

Issues of quantity over quality

While the number of connections online dating offers is far higher than that of traditional dating, the quality of those connections is dropping, says Terri O’Reilly, relationship counsellor and sex therapist. With communicating through social media such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram becoming the norm, people are losing the ability to walk up to a stranger and hold a conversation.

Another of the main issues with online dating is that the perceived abundance of choice and low effort means people have less drive to work through issues in a relationship. With so many fish in the sea, people would rather move on to their next match than try to fix problems with their current partner. These online dating problems result in a loss of compassion and ability to compromise, making relationships harder to maintain.

Want results? Adjust your attitude

One of Australia’s first sex therapists, Bettina Arndt, argues that not everyone has such an abundance of choice when looking for a partner. Online dating may offer greater exposure to potential partners, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into more success.

The key to successful online dating is having the right attitude. People who focus too much on the result of finding a partner often become bitter and cynical, which makes them less appealing to others. But if you just enjoy the process of meeting people, you are far more likely to find a mutual attraction with someone.

Want to listen to the full radio interview? Click here.