Online dating has become extremely popular. According to statisticbrain.com, 41,250,000 people in the U.S. have tried online dating. That’s 13% of the total population. It makes sense that dating has moving online along with just about everything else is our society. In a lot of logicals ways, moving the dating process online seems inline with just about every other selection process we have. Whether you’re shopping on Amazon or apartment hunting on Craigslist, you allow yourself time to screen each possibility before agreeing to it. The same now applies to dating. But does it really work? Can we really relegate romance and chemistry to a simple screening process?

One positive argument that many use is the increased opportunity argument. As Evan Marc Katz, a dating coach and owner of the website evanmarckatz.com puts it, “All I know is that it’s freakin’ HARD to meet someone. We have our small lives: our circle of married friends, our work buddies, a few single people, and that’s it. And as you get into your mid-30′s, the bar scene is really old and set-ups have become a bit of a joke. While it’s nice to say, ‘I want to meet someone organically, where our eyes meet, so I can feel chemistry’, that simply doesn’t happen very often. This is why I believe in online dating. Not because it’s perfect – not by a long shot. But because it creates opportunity where previously there was none.”

Kate Morin of greatist.com provides a different perspective, siting scientific research: “While many dating sites claim the ability to find your perfect match, social scientists aren’t buying it. Research suggests that, while it is possible to predict whether two people could enjoy spending time together in the short term, it’s (nearly) impossible to scientifically match two people for long-term compatibility. The strongest predictors of a good, functional relationship are how a couple interacts, and their ability to handle stress — two things that science says current dating website algorithms can’t predict and online profiles can’t demonstrate.”

However, perhaps the point is not for a computer algorithm to find your perfect match. Perhaps the point is to simply provide opportunity, as Katz said. When wondering whether online dating really works, consider what you mean when you ask that question. Do you mean, will these websites find my soulmate with minimal effort on my part? My answer to that question would be no, online dating does not work. However, if you mean will online dating provide me with more opportunities to meet people and from there, once I’m given the shot, I will see if this is a right match or not? To that question, I would say absolutely yes.

As Jason Feifer, a senior editor at Fast Company says, “I don’t believe that an algorithm can match me up, and I don’t want an algorithm to match me up. I want to match me up.” Feifer met his wife Jennifer Miller, a freelance journalist and author, through OkCupid after narrowing his search criteria to two requirements: “Jewish” and “journalist.” Morin’s article highlights this couple and she explains that, “Feifer and Miller told me they didn’t start using OkCupid with the hopes of finding their soulmates. Instead, both joined the site after ending long-term relationships and moving to a new city without many friends. They both used the site to meet more people and go on more dates, while using their limited free time efficiently.”

If you’re considering online dating, think to yourself what you’re expecting the process to be and what role you see yourself playing in the process. My advice: for online dating to really work, you must view it simply as a method of providing more opportunities for yourself.

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