Does Online Dating Work? Research Says “Mostly”

You’ve seen the ads. A loving couple embraces and smiles. The woman’s ring finger is adorned with an enormous wedding ring. They look into each other’s eyes, turn to the viewer, and explain that they found love through an online dating site. Despite the gloss, those at home sitting on the couch can be forgiven for wondering if online dating sites actually work for ordinary people.

Does Online Dating Really Work?


Recent research published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest indicates that online dating generally works as well as more traditional types of dating. Online dating allows the lovelorn to quickly locate potential partners, all of whom they can screen by age, religion, marital history and the like. This can allow them to quickly filter out inappropriate partners.


However, research indicates that users shouldn’t allow themselves to adopt a “shopping cart” mentality when looking for people to date. If you’d like to succeed at dating online, don’t look at the people available to date as if they were cars in the lot at a used car dealership. Keep an open mind and take the time to get to know interested people as individuals.


Once you join a dating website, you are usually directed to answer a questionnaire that the site will use to determine your compatibility with other members. Each site has its own way of matching people it believes are compatible, called an algorithm. Occasionally, a site may reject members if it does not believe it can find a compatible person for them to date. Research indicates that while online dating can be effective, this is not due to the algorithms employed. No evidence indicates that dating algorithms help to encourage successful dating.


Research shows that if you’re interested in someone, you shouldn’t wait for an excessive period of time to meet them in person. Researchers learned that a couple’s chances of a successful romance diminished if they waited overly long to contact each other. Research suggests that you should reserve judgment about the other person until you can meet them face-to-face.

So does online dating work?

The proof, as the proverb says, is in the pudding. About 120,000 couples who met online marry each year. This, as much as any research, shows that online dating works and can change lives.



Eli J. Finkel1, Paul W. Eastwick, et al., Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1) 3–66, 2012.