If you consider how many of your friends have met their significant others on Match.com or OkCupid
, you know there's considerably less stigma surrounding online dating than there was 10 or 15 years ago. But does that necessarily mean these relationships will be successful, 10 or 15 years down the line?
That's what researchers at Stanford and Michigan State University wanted to know. In light of websites like eHarmony's claims that more than a third of marriages start online
, they recently polled more than 4,000 people to see whether eHarmony and OkCupid are as successful at predicting long-term romantic compatibility as they claim to be. Instead, they found the opposite: Couples who meet online are less likely to stay together long-term
than those who meet offline.
According to the study
, couples who meet on websites like eHarmony, Match.com, and Zoosk are less likely to get married than couples who meet offline. Furthermore, even couples who meet on those sites and do end up getting married tend to break up at a higher rate than their offline counterparts. Perhaps most damning of all, online dating isn't the most efficient way to find a romantic partner, with online couples taking a longer time on average to initiate a relationship than couples who met offline.
The reasons for this discrepancy, Michigan State University researcher Aditi Paul speculates
, probably have to do with the fact that even though online dating is less stigmatized than it once was, we still tend to take online relationships a lot less seriously than ones in real life.
"We don't put in too much thought into online relationships," she wrote in the study. "Maybe this casualness that is associated with online relationship initiation impedes the development of the relationship in the long run.
After all, if you don't think of the guy you emoji-flirted with on Tinder
as a serious dating prospect from the get-go, its unlikely that your views on him will evolve much six months down the line.
Do the results of this study mean that we should all delete our Tinder and OkCupid accounts en masse? Of course not. After all, not everyone is logging on to dating websites and apps looking for a longterm romantic commitment. Even if you are, the study is quick to note that online dating isn't a totally fruitless endeavour, as long as you take the time to build relationships with people and get to know them first.
The more couples spend time with each other, the more they get to know the other person and develop interpersonal trust and intimacy with them, the authors of the study wrote. This leads to greater stability of the relationship, which in turn increases the odds of them staying together in the long run.
So think about that the next time you're half-heartedly thumbing through profiles on Tinder, swiping right for your soul-mate.