Online dating is like shopping for new sneakers on your iPhone —at some point you have to see your “perfect match” in person to know if it’s a good fit.
In the past six years, Internet dating sites have proliferated. In 2005, only three percent of couples met online. By 2009 that number had jumped to 22 percent for heterosexuals, and nine percent for same-sex couples. There’s little evidence, however, that these sites work better than traditional dating methods, say authors of a new study.
“There is no reason to believe that online dating improves romantic outcomes,” Harry Reis, one of the study’s co-authors tells Time. “It may yet, and someday some service might provide good data to show it can, but there is certainly no evidence to that right now.”
Key selling points of Internet dating sites may actually inhibit your search for the perfect partner. Profiles are the primary offender. They reduce the gradual—but awkward—initial dating period to a list of activities and a few photos. The sheer number of matches offered by most dating sites also encourages a “shopping” experience, which leads to people making decisions based upon superficial or irrelevant criteria.
Researchers do point out that “like anything on the Internet, if you use online dating wisely, it can be a great advantage.”
One key way to use online dating to your advantage is to take it offline as quickly as possible. More than six weeks of online communication can skew your expectations, leading to increased disappointment when you finally meet your soul mate—or sneaker—for coffee.