When It Comes to Online Dating, Old Fashioned Chemistry Goes a Long Way

While statistics reveal that more people than ever are meeting online, new websites are being created to customize the experience for users in order to meet people more likely to fit those individual quirks. Dating sites such as Nerve.com are using alternative techniques than the previously used algorithms to match people based more on personality and less on formula. Whereas before, online dating was just a more expedient way to get together, it’s now serving as yet another platform for voicing very particular tastes in order to seek out a complimentary reflection of those preferences in a mate.

Nerve.com’s chief executive, Sean Mills uses this philosophy to create a new type of online dating site. “We’re moving away from the algorithm era into the social era. This is a dating site that reflects how the Web has changed,” Mills recently said in a New York Times article.

This is most apparent in the various personality tests available to users on online dating sites, where participants carefully craft profiles that reflect an authentic and very individual personality in a treasure trove of profiles to plunder. The popular online dating site OK Cupid has 43,745 personality tests ranging from the fluffy “What kind of breed of dog would you be?” to the strident, “Would you have been a Nazi?” test. Each test seeks to personalize the experience of the user while at the same time providing context for those seeking out like-minded and compatible partners.

After interviewing two very different subjects, one male and one female, both of the same age, ethnicity, and city, it appears that gender lines play a role in just how committed subjects are willing to get. On gender equality or inequality online, the 26-year-old man, put it very succinctly: “I think guys are on it because they’re looking for short-term relationships. The girls are definitely more desperate (to seek out long term relationships).”

So where does the motivation lie for either gender? Perhaps in the fact it provides immediate gratification, or fodder, to provide for one’s friends. For those who use dating site’s services for passing amusement, their quest becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; they do not find meaningful and lasting relationships. As the male, who wished to remain anonymous, further pontificated, “It was definitely an entertaining part of my life. I would not recommend it if you are actually looking to find your soul mate. You’re not going to marry someone and say I met this chick on Match.com.”

On the contrary, many people are both meeting and marrying mates on sites like Match.com. According to a recent New York Times article, “of the romantic partnerships formed in the United States between 2007 and 2009, 21% of heterosexual couples and 61% of same-sex couples met online.”

Hillery, 25, had a far more enriching experience. She ended up meeting a long-term boyfriend and dating him for over a year and a half after a mere three weeks of being on Match.com. As she recounts, “The stigma has been lifted it’s a very normal thing to do. It’s hard to date in New York City and I think it’s great that there’s a platform that washes away the worry of having to go up to someone in a bar. It also enables women to make the first move if they have to.”

It’s important to note however, that the reality kicks in after the initial encounter. According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin, “81% of people misrepresent their height, weight, or age in their profiles.” Pictures don’t always tell the full story, and there is always space for surprises. While the male subject was pleasantly surprised to find that one of his dates had a piercing that definitely could not be revealed in a public forum, the female subject was pretty much just excited that her guy surpassed her expectations physically.

Like any relationship, there’s always a beginning, middle, and end no matter how short- or long-term. But for online dating, there’s also the relationship with the site itself. When is the right time to end things? For Hillery, she immediately ended things when she found the right guy, a mere 3.5 weeks after joining. After exchanging information, they simply communicated via e-mail and text, the site had served its purpose. However, trust issues still abound and an online foothold can be hard to break free from.  As she spoke of the aftermath of her online dating relationship, “After we broke up, I didn’t go back on (Match.com).”

As new relationships cycle through, from the online world to the real world, there seems to be no sure fire formula to guarantee a match. Once the initial counter is launched from cyberspace, it’s up to good old fashioned chemistry to make it work.

Photo Credit: Shayne Kaye