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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Online Dating Addiction

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Becoming Addicted to Online Dating
The Online Dating Addiction

Quick Access:
Is it Possible to Become Addicted to Online Dating?


Can people become addicted to online dating?

 

Matchmaking has always been a part of cultures around the world. Most matchmaking people experience is done through family and friends… and good matches are basically akin to a lucky draw. Arguably, technology has influenced courtship for the better. The advent of online dating and matchmaking services has radically expanded the opportunities for singles to pursue romantic relationships (1, 3).  Modern technology now permits more sophisticated and effective matchmaking. There’s substantial research on the factors that make relationships satisfying and stable – now the public has a way to effectively and efficiently apply that knowledge through computerized testing and search features on websites. In fact, it seems to be a smarter approach to dating:

» It saves time.
Singles are busier than ever before. Online dating offers the potential for daters to much about others in short time – the idea of “you have to kiss many frogs to find that prince or princess.

» It broadens your prospects.
As stated above, traditionally people have met romantic prospects either through chance, at work or through friends. Thus, social circles were obviously restricted. Online dating removes these restrictions, so now there’s access to more people than ever before. This means that online daters can cull a much wider dating pool than they typically offline, which increases the odds of finding qualified partners.

» People use it with realistic expectations.
One of my studies (2) that was published in the North American Journal of Psychology showed that many online daters maintain a healthy dose of skepticism when they are presented with romantic matches. Thus, there’s no evidence we’ve seen that online daters are starry-eyed and overly idealistic in their romantic pursuits.

» It is private.
Unlike offline dating, online dating can be done at your leisure in your home and at your own pace. You use it when it fits your schedule.

» It often saves money.
Consider the price of most date activities nowadays, and what it costs to get to know even twenty people exclusively on those dates! Online dating sites typically offer a great value if users consistently take advantage of the services.

» It is safer dating.
Contrary to media hype and political lobbying of legislation, online dating is clearly safer than offline dating all things being equal.

» Online communication can be more honest.
Studies show that people easily reveal their true selves and can establish genuine bonds quickly online.  

These features and benefits notwithstanding, there are some inherent risks in online dating, and I don’t mean online scammers and predators. Some researchers even question whether the Internet really bad in the long run for building relationships. Here are some of the risks involved:

» Dependency.
People can become too comfortable with online communication; losing their ability for real-life social skills.

» Poor Barriers.
People are exposed to more types of people, and this includes people who don’t represent themselves honestly.

» Too many choices.
People are presented with so many profiles that they can start becoming overly picky or rigid in their standards for a partner.

» Impatience.
People can allow instant gratification to take over and become too impatient with the development of a relationship, instead of letting it mature gradually and naturally.

» Fantasy and addiction.
And finally, people can fall prey to fantasy in online dating.

Carefully contemplate this last risk. Online dating can be so thrilling because of the sheer scope of wildly attractive prospects that surround you – millions around the world! It can also be thrilling to meet and flirt with countless people. It’s an ego rush that can affect your brain – literally. When people are excited and physiological stimulated, the brain dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which are sex chemicals that give us feelings of euphoria, exhilaration and passionate love. Therefore, in a real sense “adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder.”

This all feels great, but it also means that people can become virtually “addicted” to these feelings – or in other words, become overly preoccupied with the “thrill of the hunt” as opposed to the attachments being formed with other people. How do you know whether or not you’re becoming “addicted” to online dating?  There is no medical diagnostic test, but be aware of these potential warning signs:

» The amount, rather than the quality, of romantic prospects that you establish contact with makes you feel good.

» You have no serious intention to meet any of your prospects offline.

» When you feel you know an online romantic prospect well, you start pulling away from him/her and look for a new trophy to seize upon.

» You find the early, more immature stages of an “online relationship” to be the most satisfying. 

» You spend most, if not all, of your free time on online dating sites. You even shun family and friends in order to browse for more prospects. In other words, your private is unbalanced.

If you have an “Online Dating Addiction Story” to share, please contact us now. We’re eager to hear from you, and appreciate your willingness to help others who can learn from your experiences.

Related Links:
» Internet Addiction
» Avoid Becoming a Professional Online Dater

References:
1Ahuvia, A. C., & Adelman, M. B. (1992). Formal intermediaries in the marriage market: a typology and review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 54, 452-463.

2 Houran, J., & Lange, R. (2004). Expectations of finding a ‘soul mate’ with online dating. North American Journal of Psychology, 6, 297-308.

3Whitty, M. T. (2003). Cyber-flirting: playing at love on the Internet. Theory and Psychology, 13, 339-357.




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