Online Dating – Are There Too Many Fish in the Sea?

When it comes to online dating, there may be too many fish in the sea. A new study, by researchers at University of Wisconsin–Madison, suggests that the current number of online daters just may be ruining your chance at finding true love.

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“Online dating is very popular but the sheer popularity of it is creating some issues,” said Catalina Toma, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts. “Sifting through choices is potentially problematic in that it can create the perception that the grass is always greener.”

But before you shut your laptop and rush off to the bar, it’s important to note that the study was done with undergraduate students.

For the study, Toma and Jonathan D’Angelo, doctoral candidate in Communication Science, used 152 undergraduate students to study how many choices online daters have and whether those choices could be “reversed.” The study also aimed to discover if the number of choices affected romance outcomes.

Those in the study were split into two groups. Individuals in one group were given a selection of 24 online daters and had to choose one. Individuals in the other group were given six and had to choose from. A week after the choice was made, those who had more to choose from were more dissatisfied with their choice and more likely to make a different selection. The researchers dubbed this “counterfactual thinking,” which means:

Having more choices allows people to generate counterfactuals, or evaluative thoughts about the merits of the discarded alternatives (i.e., ‘what might have been’), which, in turn, lowers satisfaction.

“There can be more regret when they know there are other options,” says D’Angelo. “You can meet people who are similar to you like you never could before. This research suggests that even though you’re meeting people who are potentially similar, there can be downside to having that much access.”

Having such a large selection makes a person more likely to leave a choice and return to the online dating field.

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“When the cost of the investment of meeting someone is really low and there are tons of options you’ll explore those options,” says Toma.

Online Dating Magazine has talked about the “Grass is Greener” mentality in the past.

So what do you think? Is it harder for people to truly invest in a relationship when they know how easy it is to go back online to a large selection? Let us know in the Comments below.

Joe Tracy

Joe Tracy is the publisher and founder of Online Dating Magazine, which launched in July 2003 and has been providing original dating advice, tips, articles, reviews, and videos to readers ever since.

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  • Too Many Fish in the Sea


    The vast number of online daters could stifle relationships with a ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality…

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