Skip to content
For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Study Reveals Limitations of Online Dating

Online dating has become a widely accepted and encouraged means of finding one’s spouse, but one blogger recently called this practice into question after new research was released from Michigan State University.

In a pair of articles for the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph, science correspondent Sarah Knapton examined how the culture of online dating might affect those attempting to meet and marry.

She noted that today’s singles often have enjoyable, busy lives and little time for face-to-face meetings that are not guaranteed to lead to a dating relationship. Consequently adults are “increasingly throwing [themselves] at the mercy of computers, outsourcing [their] love lives to algorithms and spreadsheets.”

Knapton implies that online dating might not be the most reliable way to find lifelong married love. She shares research from Michigan State University, which looked at more than 4,000 married couples. The study found that married couples who met online were three times more likely to divorce, compared with those who met in person. Online daters are also 28 percent more likely to break up within the first year of dating, and so are less likely to marry. .

“There is a greediness involved in online dating,” says Ayesha Vardag, one of Britain’s leading divorce lawyers. “It is, after all, a sort of digital menu full of people waiting to be chosen or disregarded. As well as the convenience factor it’s easy to get carried away with the high of instant gratification and not give the relationship a real chance to develop.”

Knapton notes the simultaneous pros and cons of online dating’s scope: “Paradoxically, by opening up a new world of choice, we have become aware that there could always been [sic] someone better just a click away.”

Relationships might be shorter because of the plethora of options, surmises Knapton. “It’s easier to throw in the towel when you know there are 20 more towels waiting to be picked up.”

Another potential danger of online dating recognized by Knapton is the way in which couples are matched. “And the chances of opposites attracting? Forget it online. You’ll only get matched with people who like the same films as you, read the same newspaper, like dogs, go to church. In other words you are looking for a clone. And in biological terms that doesn’t end well,” wrote Knapton.

She explains that there is some evidence that meeting in person allows one to subconsciously pick up on biological clues, such as pheromones, to determine if a particular person is a good match genetically.

“By relying on dating profiles we may be writing off dozens of individuals who would be suitable, while wasting time on those that aren’t,” Knapton said.

Online dating also raises trust and safety issues, or perhaps exacerbates similar issues that are already present with in-person relationships. The Michigan research shows that 86 percent of online daters have concerns about profiles containing false information.

A previously released study from the University of Chicago found that online dating makes relationships stronger, but since the study was sponsored by eHarmony the results have been viewed with some suspicion.

Regardless of the results of dueling studies, meeting through a website does not doom a couple to divorce, and many happily married Catholics met their spouse online. But being aware of the opportunities, challenges and limitations inherent in online dating is important for dating couples who are hoping to meet and marry.

About the author
Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Master’s in Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and her undergraduate degree in Theology and Journalism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Emily shares the good news of the Catholic faith through writing, media appearances and speaking opportunities, which she has done on three continents. She and her husband Brad live in southeast Indiana.