Is Online Dating Helping or Hurting Your Relationship Search?

Too many choicesThere’s no disputing the fact that online dating sites have given millions of singles the chance to meet and date people they would have never met in their offline existence. That’s a great thing. It’s also a fact that thousands of these online couples have subsequently gotten married. That’s even better. My question is, did online dating play a part in impeding the remaining millions of daters from making the big commitment? In other words, when a man or woman knows that they have an almost unlimited pool of potential options to choose from, will they blow off the person they’re currently dating because of perceived flaws in search of someone better?

An article in Yahoo News titled Mating game: Too much choice will leave you lonely cited a research study of the dynamics of speed dating. The results of the study suggested that, “increasing option variety leads to chooser confusion. People are more likely to choose no-one at all when faced with greater variety.” We like to call people like this commitment-phobes, because of their fear of committing to one person who might not be “perfect” and missing out on someone who they think might be (perfect). But phobias are usually defined as being irrational, and in the case of online dating, where you literally have hundreds of profiles scrolling down your screen at a moments notice, is being afraid of choosing just one really irrational? That’s a lot of pressure, to have all those handsome fellows or beautiful women offering you the promise of eternal soulmate bliss.

A woman recently emailed me with this question: She discovered that the guy she’s been dating is still logging into his online dating account on a daily basis. Should she be worried? I tried to assuage her fears by telling her that guys will be guys, and guys like to browse and imagine and fantasize (that’s the basis of the entire porn industry, right?), but it doesn’t mean he’s actively pursuing other women. But now I’m having second thoughts. I mean, I still don’t think this guy is actually dating anyone else (I’m trusting him, sorry), but maybe all this window shopping is throwing up a big warning sign in his head that says, “you might be able to do better?”

Although this potential problem exists among both genders, the predominant offenders by a long shot are men. Let’s face the facts: in today’s society an average looking, educated, well-adjusted, gainfully employed man between the ages of 30 and 60 (you can adjust the ages based on personal experience) has far too many options to choose from (much more than he rationally deserves). Why that is the case is beyond the scope of this post, but you know it’s true. So when one of these chumps meets a woman whom he can potentially fall in love and settle down with, does he blow it in the early dating innings because he thinks he might be able to do better? Seriously, aren’t Demi Moore and Cameron Diaz single again?

This article in the Atlantic claims that there’s nothing to worry about. I’m not so sure. I think online dating is obviously here to stay and it’s a blessing for most singles out there who can meet new people outside their zipcode and in the comfort of their pajamas, but for some men (and the women they date) it’s a real problem.

How do you deal with this problem? I’m waiting to hear your solutions.

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