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“Online Dating Doesn’t Work!” – Why You Might Be Doing It Wrong

by eharmony Editorial Team - July 8, 2024

For some who’ve been online trying to find love with the boom of dating apps over the last 10 years, you can often catch yourself thinking online dating doesn’t work. You swipe, swipe, and swipe some more, match, chat, date and lose touch, all in this seemingly endless cycle. 

As popular a meme as this is, according to the data, nearly three-quarters of online dating users have found a relationship through it1. But if you’re not one of them, that statistic may not warm you. You’re likely just trying to find your own piece of happiness in the crowd.

Online dating doesn’t work for some people often not because of something lacking in them, but because of their mindset and approach to the process. Let’s explore some of the underlying factors that contribute to online dating issues.

Mismatched expectations

Popular culture is partly to blame for why some people think online dating doesn’t work. It often presents dating apps as frantic free-for-alls, where everyone is connecting and dating on a daily basis. The truth is online dating can take patience, particularly if you want to meet the right kind of singles.  

It’s also important to be realistic with yourself. It’s one of the main reasons online dating fails. If you’ve never been an active dater, it may take practice to get into the swing of things. You should also try to pursue opportunities that generally fit the standards of your dating history to find more success.   

The most important aspect of expectations is making sure they’re aligned. For instance, online dating doesn’t work when you’re looking for a relationship and connecting with singles looking for something casual. Even if you two can overcome them, unmet relationship expectations are heavily associated with lower relationship satisfaction, according to a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships2.

It’s crucial to share your expectations as soon as you can to ensure you’re on the same page and are looking for similar things out of your relationship. To reduce instances where this doesn’t happen, you could also use services specifically for relationship seekers, like eharmony.  

Communication challenges

One of the challenges of online dating is a general phenomenon referred to as bodies under glass in a paper by RMIT University3. It notes our tendency to objectify and dehumanize people we find online, reducing them to changeable qualities. People see pictures and a bio, not fully realized human beings on the other end.    

Written correspondence is its own art so just practice and check when online conversations go awry. Try to note any patterns or little mistakes you’re making that create ambiguity or are sending up a red flag, for fewer online dating disappointments. 

By using a detailed questionnaire, eharmony helps to pair users based on deeper personality traits and values, reducing the tendency to objectify and dehumanize potential matches. This approach promotes more meaningful connections by focusing on compatibility rather than just superficial qualities.

Deception and dishonesty

Your online efforts are going to encounter some brand of deception, like outdated or heavily edited photos, embellished profiles or users with malicious intentions. It’s just one of the perennial entries in online dating pros and cons. A recent eharmony survey found that 37% of all singles reported not being authentic or only somewhat authentic on dating apps4.

Our online existence is inherently a mix of artifice and exaggeration. Not only do we heavily curate how we’re perceived digitally but popular culture has largely normalized and encouraged this behavior. 

The problem is online dating doesn’t work on this principle because the goal is to convert digital interactions into positive real-life connections. To work properly, there must be honesty and mutual respect. A lack of authenticity erodes trust and undermines the foundation of potential relationships, which just leads to disappointment and frustration.

The last thing you want to do is sit staring at a face of regret for a whole date. Always be the person they generally expected to show up– and not just in pictures. You should also accurately portray your personality and life in your messages. So when you say, online dating doesn’t work for me, ask yourself, are you putting in the work too?  

Ghosting and flakiness

Ghosting is when someone you’re chatting with or seeing suddenly cuts off all communication without any warning or reason.

This can understandably leave you feeling rejected and devalued, further disillusioning you and making you feel like online dating doesn’t work. Ghosting is quickly emerging as the modern way people say, ‘I’m not interested. Goodbye.’ According to a Forbes Health survey, nearly two-thirds of online daters have done it5. So it’s more of a feature than a trend at this point.

Flakiness – when someone doesn’t follow through on plans they made with you – is a more toxic version of this behavior. In this case, the person likely isn’t very invested but keeps their options open by stringing you along, exiting and reentering your life with the vague notion of plans, only to cancel them at the last minute.

While you can reduce ghosting and flakiness by trying to be more engaging and moving interactions forward more purposefully, it’s also healthy to change your dating mindset. The main reasons for ghosting given in the same Forbes survey were mismatched expectations, personality clashes and a lack of emotional investment, which you can’t control.

We try to limit this by matching people based on their personalities and mutual relationship intentions through our Compatibility Matching System, so you already start off on a better footing.    

Overwhelm and choice paralysis

The dating app cycle can eventually be overwhelming, leaving you emotionally exhausted. It’s especially disheartening when you just don’t see results. You can find yourself unhealthily pondering on what to do when online dating doesn’t work because it feels broken by design.

Choice paralysis feeds into this. Overthinking choices seems an inbuilt flaw and online dating only stokes it by presenting you with an ocean of choices you can’t qualify. You want to make the perfect choice, which you know is impossible, so you end up making no choice at all, leaving you stalled in your dating efforts.

This has led to the phenomenon of dating app burnout and a growing attitude that online dating doesn’t work. It’s not uncommon either. The best way to avoid it is to limit your dating app usage, date less and more selectively, or by taking a break from dating.

eharmony uses your time and emotional energy efficiently by presenting you only with compatible potential matches we think you’d have a good chance of building a successful relationship with, and letting you quickly filter out ineligible options based on your dating goals.

Negative experiences

While a recent Pew Research Center survey found that about half of online dating users regarded their experiences as positive, this leaves just as many singles with a collection of bad memories, with 11% regarding them as ‘very negative’[6]. These are the people who would certainly think online dating doesn’t work.  

A very negative experience could be any of the online dating drawbacks I’ve described, or something particularly aberrant and traumatic like having your deeply held boundaries violated or someone aggressively and persistently pursuing you.

These experiences can add up and drive you to the point of thinking, ‘This is why I’m still single. Something I’m doing is attracting this.’ and other destructive thought loops. Left unaddressed, this dating trauma can eventually make dating or even logging into your app feel so daunting that just the idea of it can trigger you.

The important thing here is to give yourself time to recover from these experiences and indulge in self-care, which can in some cases include talking to a professional about it. But your ultimate goal should be to eventually get back on the horse – if you still want to find someone – and develop an approach to online dating that’s healthier, and on your terms.        

If online dating doesn’t work for you, change your approach

With liars and ghosts seemingly looming from every corner, a stormy, freezing sea of choices – and confronting the frustrating expressive limitations of emojis –you may be wondering, is online dating worth it, really?

The key is to date for you. Focus on what you’re looking for, be concrete on your boundaries, brush off those minor setbacks and be kind to yourself in managing your expectations. In short, use online dating as a tool, not a crutch. And if you still find that online dating doesn’t work for you, keep trying things until something does.

Picking the right service for you and your goals is a good first step. If you’re looking for a relationship based on compatibility and commonality, and to spend less time scrolling and more time connecting with authentic, relationship-minded singles, then eharmony may be the second chance you’ve been looking for. Register and try us out today. 

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