Why Are Men Single? This Study Asked Reddit and Found Men Think They're Too Ugly and Awkward for Love

reddit study single men think they're ugly
Reddit mascots sit on display at the company's San Francisco headquarters in April 2014. In a study of nearly 7,000 Reddit comments, a researcher found that many single men think they're too ugly and bad at flirting to find a partner. (Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

In 2017, an anonymous Redditor asked, "Guys, why are you single?" More than 13,429 men responded, and researchers analyzed half of the comments to devise a list of the most common factors men credit for their singledom.

After sorting through 6,790-plus comments on a thread from Reddit, the popular aggregator and discussion site, lead author Menelaos Apostolou found that most men who aren't in relationships still seek them and that most responders frequently cited poor looks, low confidence and scarring experiences from previous relationships as factors that kept them from finding a partner, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Sciences.

Before the study's start, Apostolou outlined three primary reasons why people remain single: they choose to, pooling their resources or attracting several mates at once; they don't want to but lack the social skills to effectively entice mates; or they're unable to seek out partners because of poor health.

In the analysis of the comments, often self-deprecating and crude, more than 662 men considered themselves too ugly to attract a partner, the most frequently cited factor, followed by low confidence and little effort. Others considered themselves too shy, overweight, too picky or too jealous and narcissistic to attract a partner.

One Redditor wrote, "Because I have massive self-esteem issues, I think I'm worthless, and I don't do social things because I don't want to inflict my stupid, worthless presence on other people." Another called his personality "radioactive."

In ancient, preindustrial societies, men didn't need to earn a partner's affection with flirting; they coupled solely to reproduce. This required little effort on the man's part, and mates were often obtained through force or arranged couplings, Apostolou said. Now, sexual desire and romantic love have overtaken reproduction as the primary drivers of relationships, and men have been forced to adapt to get a leg up on competitors.

"Such skills are needed today, because in postindustrial societies mate choice is not regulated or forced, but people have to instead find mates on their own," Apostolou said in a statement.

Exposure to media and unrealistic standards of how the ideal mate should look and behave has also hampered men's search for partners and contribute to a problem Apostolou calls "mismatching": Men consider themselves inadequate compared with those they see on TV and in pornography and are therefore unlovable.

Still, the results may be skewed by the venue from which they were drawn: In a 2011 Reddit survey, 15 percent of users rated themselves "forever alone." What's more, active Reddit users are likely to have some computing background, and socially inept men may be more likely to enter IT or computing careers. As a result, the results may have overrepresented the number of single men who consider themselves socially awkward, Apostolou said.

More than 46 percent of men 18 and up in the U.S. are single, according to the Census Bureau, but these males rarely remain partnerless. About 20 percent of Americans 25 and older have never been married, a 2014 Pew Research Center study found, though one-fourth of 25- to 34-year-olds live with a partner. Couples increasingly delay the age at which they marry to establish economic stability, and others never marry at all but remain in a committed relationship, the study found.