Whether enlisting the help of a grandmother or a friend or the magic of Cupid, singles long have understood that assistance may be required to meet that special someone.  Today such help is likely to come from online methods of matchmaking. But online dating, according to new Northwestern University research, depends largely on ineffective algorithms and profiles for finding potential love interests.

Mobile dating, the latest iteration in digital dating, however, may hold promise, because it brings together potential partners face-to-face fast to see if "sparks" exist, the research suggests. Although the research on mobile dating is scarce, Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and lead author of the study, is optimistic about this approach. "GPS features on smartphone apps can tell you who is nearby and willing to be browsed," Finkel said. "With a little bit of basic information, potential daters can get together right away for a quick face-to-face meet-up."

Good old-fashioned face-to-face contact still is paramount in finding that special someone, and the faster that happens the better, the research suggests.  In previous research, Finkel and his co-authors found that ideal preferences of daters viewing online profiles fell by the wayside after in-person meetings with potential partners.

Finkel maps three generations of online dating and discusses each approach.

• The first generation in 1995—the launch of Match.com

“We use the analogy that dating sites like Match.com are like supermarkets of love,” Finkel said. “You check out the wares (online profiles) and see what you like. Upon first blush, this approach seems reasonable, but there are two major problems with it: People really don’t learn much from a profile, and people get overloaded by choice."

• The second generation in 2000—enter eHarmony:

Sites like eHarmony market themselves less as supermarkets of love than as something akin to real estate brokers of love. They use “matching algorithms” in an effort to identify which potential partners are especially compatible with a given online dater. The choice issue, Finkel observed, is somewhat solved by the algorithm approach. Only a handful of people are chosen as compatible matches. "But there is no compelling evidence that any of these algorithms work," he said. “Limiting the number of potential partners is only helpful if the algorithmic-selection process favors compatible partners over incompatible ones, which it fails to do. Even if the algorithms are cutting 2,000 potential partners down to five, if that process is random, is it really any better than strolling into the neighborhood bar?”

• The third generation in 2008—mobile dating:

With the advent of smartphone apps, mobile dating was launched. Mobile dating's ability to get people face-to-face fast may make a big difference. "You have a little bit of basic information," Finkel said. "Is this person below threshold or above threshold for a five-minute meet-up—five minutes from now? There’s no better way to figure out whether you’re compatible with somebody than talking to them over a cup of coffee or a pint of beer."

The authors hope their report will push proprietors to build a more rigorous scientific foundation for online dating services.

Co-authors of the study are Paul Eastwick, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University; Benjamin Karney, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles; Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester; and Susan Sprecher, professor of sociology and psychology at Illinois State University.The research will be published by Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Author:  Hilary Hurd Anyaso is the law and social sciences editor for Northwestern's Newscenter

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Comments

Personally I have some friends who use social networks on their mobile phones of the third kind. I find no reason to say this method is not good. But personally I am not yet convinced, I guess that gives me a little respect or fear with whom you can meet in the street. I guess that's just a matter of time and habit.At first people wasn´t used to meet someone you knew online.

Great post! I would say that online dating works if you want it to work for you. It's a numbers game like any other type of dating. You have be open minded and put yourself out there.

I absolutely believe that online dating and matching sites really do work. People are very busy these days trying to keep up that this is just another techno way to save time. Then having saved time in the search for a friend/relationship, you can have more time for courting.

I met my wife online and i believe that dating sites are there to stay.Many people said that Facebook will take over, but i'm more than sure that people are already getting bored of Facebook.

Awesome Post. I would say online dating works if the site you are using is legit. Plenty of Fish is free while the match.com eharmony.com are not. I would say try the one that has a good selection if you think they will work for you. Most places have fake profiles thats why im not sure if it really works you know?

would have to say after working sometime on the site I am currently working on, that the answer would definitely be “yes”. It is really up to the person though, like anything else you only get out what you put in. A nice profile and a nice picture will go a long way from what I have seen so far.

Thanks for the post....I agree with some of the other comments. What works for some people does not always work for everyone. Online dating can and does work ...sometimes. Just like dating out in the "real world". Thanks again for the article.

thank's your share,,,nice good ilke your web. Good old-fashioned face-to-face contact still is paramount in finding that special someone,

Hi I personally believe that online dating works. I met some great people through online dating and eventually found love through one of the dating sites I was registered with. But it probably does not work for everybody... Some prefer to go to social happenings and mix with people, meet people that way and hopefully find true love. Good luck all...

Nice post. However, I feel with all the technology that we currently have, people are becoming less social than before the computer age. I'm not much in tune with dating websites, I like the traditional way of going out and interacting with people. Although, I tried eHarmony and it is a decent service. I only see internet dating a viable way for someone, who has a very busy life. Thanks,

Tools only go so far, mobile dating has been around for a while in different guises. It also raises concerns about security. Being caught up in the moment and agreeing to meet someone spontaneously isnt always such a good idea. There is a place for all types of dating and online dating certainly has its place. One of the strengths of online dating is also a weakness. The sheer volume of potential dates can turn people into "serial"daters always looking for the next date without ever getting to know people! The Wall Street Journal ran an article with the calculation that it would take 1,369 Match.com dates to get married.... I think the most important things when it comes to dating in general are; 1) Be yourself, You will attract compatible people suitable for a lasting relationship when you show them who you really are. There will be no hidden surprises and there are few things more attractive than someone that is comfortable with who they are. 2) Define what you really want and persevere. Trust that if you apply yourself you can get what you really want in your life. You must be able to say "No" to what you DON'T want, to be available to say "Yes" to what you DO want. You have the power to choose who, what, where, when, and how, and can get what you really want if you make effective choices aligned with your vision and requirements. Remember dating doesn't have to be serious... Have fun :-)

It depends upon the situation some are serious in finding a great relationships some are joining to have a pleasure. You must know how peek well.

I like online dating because it take away some of the pressure, the only drawback there is no way of knowing if the person fit the description of the mate you're looking for.

I am from the 1995 "match.com" generation, but, never got full use from it. Instead, I found using chat-rooms such as those in AOL to be an excellent way of meeting new people. Unlike, as correctly pointed out above, where online profiles just give to a piece of static information about someone (who has probably spent hours crafting the message) the chat rooms provided a much more dynamic setting where one could get a better "feel" for someone's personality. For me, it was fun while it lasted and worked well - but I am just glad that I no longer have to worry about meeting people in the mobile generation and I really do not agree with the "There’s no better way to figure out whether you’re compatible with somebody than talking to them over a cup of coffee or a pint of beer."

Yeah, i love reading your site.....Online dating seems for feasible nowadays. But its tough too because people may not get the right idea of who you are by describing yourself.

This is a great post. I think what works for one, may not so well for another. For me, online dating has been disastrous (mobile, etc.). I really think there is nothing like in-person dates and time spent getting to know another. Again, that's just for me, but could very well be different for others. Good read.

The evolution of mobile dating. That's a neat way of putting it!

Good old-fashioned face-to-face contact still is paramount in finding that special someone, and the faster that happens the better, the research suggests. In previous research, Finkel and his co-authors found that ideal preferences of daters viewing online profiles fell by the wayside after in-person meetings with potential partners.

Upon first blush, this approach seems reasonable, but there are two major problems with it: People really don’t learn much from a profile, But personally I am not yet convinced, I guess that gives me a little respect or fear with whom you can meet in the street

I actually know quite a few people that have meet their husbands/wives through online dating! It's crazy....make sure you wear a nice stylish outfit when you first meet. I would give plus points for that.

While new technologies can help meet more people, and faster, nothing like the first impression you have of a person to look into her eyes for the first time and find your smile

Mobile dating is huge now, but I do have a hard time believing that it will take the place of online dating. I have seen things written that say home computers and laptops will become obsolete, but I wouldn't want to give up my laptop. Shoot I can hardly see my phone especially without my glasses:)

I actually met my wife via online dating, so on that account it did indeed work. Now, is it the best way for society to evolve in regards to dating as a social aspect of life? That’s difficult to say, though I do not believe that it will become a problem. It is only yet another tool in the process of meeting other people.

Yah, for me online dating really work.. and it will depended on both parties on how they handle their relationship even there both far from each other.

Online dating works but you also have to be very logical and realistic and not allow your emotions to take the best of you. I met my fiancee at on-line and we have been together for 6 years now because we both were searching for a serious relationship. I rather seek for someone on a paid dating website than someone in a club because the person on a paid dating site is investing to find someone worthy, on the other hand the person from clubs most times are only looking to have some fun. I think that online dating works but you just gotta know what you really want and also be very cautious.

This is a great post. Online dating seems for feasible nowadays. But its tough too because people may not get the right idea of who you are by describing yourself. we all see ourselves different then others see us. but i do think it is a great way to meet people.

its great for those that dont have the time, yet they have the time to spend hours on a dating site, makes no sense.

I would have to say after working sometime on the site I am currently working on, that the answer would definitely be "yes". It is really up to the person though, like anything else you only get out what you put in. A nice profile and a nice picture will go a long way from what I have seen so far.

I never expected to find anyone interesting through Internet dating. But I have in fact found my dream man through a online dating service. We have been together for 5 months. So I can warmly recommend it.

Yeah great article and i agree with some of these posters, online dating is just creating a reclusive society, people say its great for those that dont have the time, yet they have the time to spend hours on a dating site, makes no sense.

Online dating seems more feasible nowadays. Nothing like the first impression you have of a person to look into her eyes for the first time and find your smile.

Like you said, there's a lot more research that needs to be done in the area of mobile dating. I do agree that people can get overwhelmed with so many choices on different dating sites, but I put caution first when it comes to online dating. It takes time to get to know someone. Mobile dating may hold promise for those in a hurry to find someone or for those looking for a quick romance. If you're serious about finding a relationship, you will take the time to research the online profiles, chat with potential dates, and eventually meet in person. It's a process and when it's done right over time, you will be happy that you took your sweet time.

Isn't online dating just skipping the first step? Skipping the first conversation where you have no idea what you have in common or not? Is online dating not just taking the thrill of that away? Or is online dating just a time saver? Or are we too lazy to flirt and talk in real life?

Maybe it does work for everyone else, what I got out of it, wouldn't really call a very nice romantic experience. Lots of peculiar people out there and I just happened to meet 2 of them in 2 different cases. Maybe I'm just unlucky.

I met my girlfriend via online dating, so on that account it did indeed work. Now, is it the best way for society to evolve in regards to dating as a social aspect of life? That’s difficult to say, though I do not believe that it will become a problem. It is only yet another tool in the process of meeting other people.

Thanks for the post….I agree with some of the other comments. What works for some people does not always work for everyone. Online dating can and does work …sometimes. Just like dating out in the “real world”. Thanks again for the article.

I guess online dating works for others, not for some. It really depends on the person involved if he/she is willing to invest time and effort to commit to the other online.

Online dating is really a risk, but sometimes you need to have that risk if you really want to have a partner. Mark

I know a lot of people who are now happily married with the man they've met online. There are also some who've not found anyone yet, or have had bad experience with online dating. It's about knowing the person really and working through your relationship when you get together. But maybe it's right that what works for others doesn't work for everyone.

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