Reasons For Online Dating Vary Widely

Woman using online dating app on tablet

People going in search of love
online have found that their high hopes for online romance have been hit by
some unexpected behaviour. Emails are routinely ignored and many people seem
loathe to meet in the dangerous offline world. Are internet daters simply
floundering in a new medium with unclear rules or is there a more fundamental
problem? Research into people’s motivations is beginning to uncover some
29, has only just started internet dating and is having a few teething
“I’m finding it really
frustrating at the moment, I’ve been sending out a few messages to women whose
profiles I like and I haven’t been getting much response. Sometimes they will
email you a few times then go quiet. Or when you offer to meet up in real life,
they suddenly turn out to be extremely busy. Frankly, I wonder why a lot of the
women are on there.”
31, is having similar problems with the men she has contacted:
“We’ll be getting along well,”
she explains. “But they are sometimes very slow to want to actually have a
face-to-face meeting. It’s as though they’re scared to step outside the safe
cocoon that email and messaging provide and take a chance. Perhaps the men on
there really are just scared to meet a real life woman. That’s why they’ve got
to rely on internet dating.”
As in real life, there are a
huge variety of people all looking for different things on internet dating
sites. Your task, as a fresh-faced adventurer, is to work out who wants what,
and whether anyone wants the same thing as you.
Research carried out in 2001
provides some interesting clues to the motivations of internet daters. While
this research was carried out fairly early on in the life of online dating it
does provide some useful pointers. Overall, the survey presents a confusing
picture, which is not surprising as people’s motivations are not always
Just Put it There for a Laugh
Of most interest to James and
Becky is the statistic that about 40% of both sexes (men: 39%, women: 45%) put
their profile on internet dating sites, “Out of curiosity or fun with no
intention of making any kind of contact.” This fact provides a clear lesson for
those disappointed to receive no reply to their carefully crafted emails. Some
people are never going to reply whatever you write or whatever your photo looks
like. That’s a fact you need to be aware of straight away otherwise you’ll be
easily disheartened.
While many internet daters are
not prepared to make any contact whatsoever, these might be considered a
reasonable bunch compared to the next category. According to this survey 40% of
women and 30% of men often using internet dating sites, “For casual online
chatting or flirting and nothing more.” This means that these people are not
intending to ever meet up in the real world – an attitude many people would
consider wasting other people’s time.
Finally. A Real Live Person. I Think. 
The good news is that almost
80% of both men and women do often use internet dating sites, “To find someone
you’d like to meet.” That’s encouraging, but confusing, as this category must
overlap with those who responded positively to the two previous categories.
This gives the first clue as to people’s confusion about why they are using
these internet dating sites.
and/or marriage
Around 50% of men and 20% of
women claim to be using online dating to obtain a sexual relationship. On the
other hand around 60% of both men and women claim to be also using the sites to
obtain a long-term partner and around 37% of both sexes are looking for a
marriage partner online.
Damn Lies and Statistics
If you assume people’s
motivations are always pure and simple then some aspects of this research seem
directly contradictory and confusing. How can 80% of people want to meet
someone online, while 40% don’t want to? If, however, you see people’s
motivations as more complex and inherently contradictory, then perhaps the
research is providing some very clear messages.
In Two, No, Four Minds About This
There are always going to be
some people at the extreme ends of the spectrum who are using internet dating
just as a way of obtaining sex, and there are going to be those who are just
interested in marriage. What this research is telling us is that most people
lie somewhere in between. It’s quite normal for people to be thinking that it
would be nice to have sex, but then again it would be nice to have a long-term
relationship. These two motivations are not mutually exclusive, although some might
moral of the story
When you start out as an
internet dating newbie, it seems only reasonable to assume that the majority of
other people are going onto internet dating sites for the same reasons that you
are. The most usual reason being meeting someone you get on with on the site,
then in the flesh, and then hopefully going on to have a long-term relationship
with them.
What this research does is
point to some fairly common alternative motivations for being on an internet
dating site as well as highlighting people’s confusion about their own reasons.
And as you negotiate the online dating jungle, you need to be aware that not
everyone’s motivations are as pure (or as debased) as your own.
*This research was carried out
in 2001, since when people’s online attitudes and behaviours have certainly
changed somewhat. Just how much, is a question for future research.
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.