What does research have to tell us about online dating? What works and what doesn’t. And what have we learnt about how single men and women now on line actually behave when we try to hunt each other down?
I’ve just published an article, Love at first site about some of the fascinating research showing that men aren’t nearly as judgemental about women’s looks as we think they are – while women are scathing about how men come across. Yet women rarely approach the best-looking men while most men seem to figure they are in with a chance with even great lookers.
Research also shows that websites claims of using science to find good matches fail to live up to their promises. It simply doesn’t work to match people using personality tests.
They’ve studied what works in profile photos and found cleavage helps older women attract attention but rarely leads to ongoing conversations. And all men over thirty should keep their shirts on, even if they sport six packs.
Dating requires reciprocity – you can’t date whom you can’t attract. The fastest growing dating site, Tinder, is doing a great job forcing people to come to terms with their own market value. If you delude yourself about who is in your league you just end up with a sore finger and no dates.
The very latest research looks at the problems faced by people using dating sites to find partners for casual sex. There are now coaches teaching men how to hook up with women and other coaches teaching women how to avoid these men.
But there’s plenty research can’t tell us – about how to write a funny profile, for instance. As I find with my own dating clients working out what makes someone special and presenting that in an amusing, lively way just isn’t easy. It remains one of many challenges in this thriving new business.