The upside of online dating is obvious: It's an easy way to meet a bunch of potential dates whenever you want. But does all of that quantity and convenience equal quality? Not always.
As 38 percent of contemporary American singles looking for love online, there's now a whole body of scientific research to give us a bit of perspective. These sites and apps may have come a long way since Match.com kicked off online dating in 1995, but studies are showing that there's still plenty of reasons to look away from your smartphones and try to meet people the old-fashioned way.
Here, we've rounded up a few kew drawbacks of online dating that might make you want to put more effort into meeting someone IRL.
1. All of that scrolling and swiping might make you look at potential dates -- aka people -- as commodities.
A 2012 comprehensive review of online dating sites found that having access to a seemingly infinite supply of profiles "can lead individuals to commoditize potential partners." In that situation, it's pretty easy for people to become overly picky -- women can sometimes be deemed undesirable with any profile picture they pick (seriously).
2. Unlimited options means you may have a hard time finding someone who's willing to commit.
Three words: paradox of choice. Having an unlimited pool of potential dates can not only make people feel less satisfied with their ultimate decision, but it can also lead them to freeze up and not make a choice at all. In fact, that aforementioned 2012 review found that online daters were less willing to settle down and commit to a single partner while they had boundless options literally at their fingertips, a sentiment that 32 percent of Internet users echoed in a 2013 Pew Research Center poll.
3. Those compatibility algorithms dating sites tout are not as effective as they sound.
A potential limitation, according to a 2012 critical analysis paper, is that sites don't have any way of knowing how people will act once they've met a match, since the intake questionnaires only gather information about singles before they're matched. Factors like communication patterns, problem-solving skills and sexual compatibility are "crucial for predicting the success or failure of relationships" but can't be captured in an algorithm employed pre-meeting (yet).
4. Communicating online before meeting IRL can cause you to build up unrealistic expectations.
While chatting online pre-date might seem like a great way to vet matches, there's a "tipping point" at which all of that information gathering might be hurting your love life, according to a 2014 study. The findings suggests that chatting online longer than 17 days before meeting face-to-face can lead to major disappointment, since people tend to fill in gaps of information about a potential partner with qualities they'd like them to posses. Meeting a person within 17 to 23 days of initial contact, it seems, is the worst time, because that's when "idealizations are at that peak," according to lead researcher Artemio Ramirez, Jr., an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida.
5. Curated profiles don’t provide ineffable information about who potential dates are as people.
If you want to find out which singles also like rock climbing or Godard films, then online dating is great. If you want to find out which singles are generous or have your sense of humor, then you'll likely have to suss that out in person. A 2008 study found that online dating sites are only good for narrowing down potential dates by "searchable attributes," like income or religion, rather than "experiential attributes," like rapport. Take it from the online daters themselves: A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that 54 percent of them have felt that "someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile."
6. Did we mention trolls?
Trolls lurk in all corners of the Internet, and online dating sites are no exception. Pew found that 28 percent of online daters have been contacted on these sites or apps in ways that "made them feel harassed or uncomfortable." When they narrowed that down by gender, they found that a whopping 42 percent of women who online date had been harassed. Oy.
7. Online dating is not a sure-fire way to get actual dates.
One third of online daters told Pew in 2013 that they hadn't gone out on an actual face-to-face date with their matches. Ain't nobody got time for that.
At the end of the day, none of this means that people shouldn't online date or that online dating is worse than traditional means of sparking with someone in person. It just might be helpful to keep these findings in mind as you navigate the utterly confusing world that is online and IRL dating.