The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Online Dating

Finding love has never been particularly easy, and the rise in online dating may be making it even more complex, as scientists have identified common errors people are making on their quest for love.

Online dating sites and apps have become the most common place for Americans to meet.

Following the pandemic, talking to people from the comfort of your own home has become more and more popular. In 2020, data from the Statista Digital Market Outlook showed 44.2 million Americans were using online dating services.

And this is only projected to increase, with an estimated 53.3 million users by 2025.

Woman looks worried looking at phone
A stock photo shows a woman on her phone. There are three common mistakes people are making when online dating. Finn Hafemann/Getty

Platforms have also become simpler to use. Dating apps, such as Tinder, Bumble or Hinge, allow people to create a profile in just minutes.

"Single people are turning to online dating to find a partner," said Liesel Sharabi, assistant professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, and Director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at Arizona State University.

"Online dating is now the most common way to meet someone in the U.S. Rather than being an alternative to meeting someone in person, it's increasingly just how dating happens these days," she told Newsweek.

Despite this, half of Americans remain dissatisfied with their dating lives, and nearly half of American adults believe dating has actually gotten harder in the last decade, research from the Pew Research Center found.

So, has online dating actually made things more complicated?

"I think a lot of people go into online dating knowing exactly what they're looking for, and then they discover that the things they thought mattered aren't as important once they actually meet someone in person," said Sharabi.

"Or, because they have so many options, they start treating people like they're products and ruling them out based on really trivial things, like their favorite TV show being one they hate. Many online dating platforms are designed in a way that encourages this type of behavior, but it's not necessarily going to help people find love," Sharabi added.

It is a challenge for data scientists to filter through online algorithms to determine what makes a successful match, as they become more and more complex.

But what has emerged through research are three long-standing mistakes that online dating users continuously make.

Prioritizing the Wrong Thing

Firstly, dating apps encourage a degree of superficiality. Many dating apps allow users to pick and choose a person based on pictures, with minimal information into their personality.

"People are prioritizing the wrong things in a partner. Online dating encourages you to judge others based on superficial qualities, like how tall they are or how much money they make. But that tells you almost nothing about what it would be like to be in a relationship with them. Are they kind? Are they loyal? Do they have a good sense of humor?" Sharabi said.

"These are the questions people really should be asking, but they can be tough to answer based only on a profile. When I talk to people who have found love in online dating, qualities like kindness and loyalty are what end up mattering the most in the long run."

Knowing When to Quit

Online dating presents users with an abundance of options. But, that may be part of the problem.

"People are getting overwhelmed by their options. It's true that in online dating, there are always 'plenty more fish in the sea.' Some of my research has shown that people want commitment but struggle with knowing when to quit online dating, because there's always this feeling that someone better is just a swipe away," Sharabi said.

"We know from the scarcity principle that 'relationships tend to feel more disposable when they are abundant.' This could lead to an endless cycle of searching for the 'perfect' partner, rather than trying to make things work with someone who could be a great fit for you."

Exaggerating Yourself in Your Profile

Dating apps and websites also allow for any degree of exaggeration, which feeds into people's unrealistic standards in a partner.

"People aren't showing who they really are. That's not to say that they're lying, but there is this tendency for people to exaggerate themselves in their profiles. As a general rule, overselling yourself in your profile is going to get you a lot of first dates, but not a lot of second dates," Sharabi said.

"Another one of my studies showed that, on average, attraction declines after meeting an online dating partner face-to-face for the first time. This suggests that people are going into their first dates with high expectations, only to leave feeling disappointed that their partner wasn't everything they thought they would be."

What Are People Getting Right?

But it is not all doom and gloom. Research has found that there are some things people are getting right in their quest to find love.

Sharabi said research shows people maximize their chances when they experiment with different types of dating platforms.

"People aren't sticking to just one dating app, and instead they're experimenting with different ones. You can think of dating apps like modern singles bars: each one attracts a different type of crowd. So experimenting with different types of dating apps could maximize your chances of finding the right person," Sharabi said.

People are also using video dates to get to know each other, which can help people determine whether the person is a good match for them.

"During the pandemic, a lot of dating apps started rolling out video dating. I think video dates are here to stay, and that they can give you a better sense of someone before you invest the time and energy into meeting them in person."

Maximizing the Chances of Finding Love

"People can stop endlessly swiping and start actually meeting people in person," said Sharabi.

"They can also be less rigid with what they're looking for and open themselves up to meeting different types of people. And if one app isn't working for them, they can try a different one: when it comes to online dating, there's really is something for everyone," Sharabi added.

"I don't think there's any one 'best' dating app out there. If one really did work better than all the others, they'd have the market cornered!

"So, I really think it depends on the person, and what they're looking for out of the process. For every big online dating platform out there, you're going to hear horror stories, and you're probably also going to find people who fell in love," she said.