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Online Dating: Are You Being Greedy?


Turn on the TV during the month of January and you will undoubtedly encounter a commercial touting the success rates and marriage statistics of a major online dating site. January is indeed the most abundant month in the online dating game.

And if you take the number of married couples who met online and compared it to the total number of married couples in the general population, you might get a reasonably acceptable metric of success! But are those successes the result of brilliantly engaging site design and awesome algorithms or are they the result of access to more and bigger markets?

What if you take the number of singles who tried dating online and compared it to the number who actually met a relationship partner online — the number of “attempts” compared to the number of “wins?” That might paint a fairer picture.

Still, it can’t hurt to give online dating a try. 

The rate of single status is increasing in the modern era, so I’m assuming that you – or someone you know – have ventured onto an online dating site or app. You have many choices on the dating market, and the first thing you do is start narrowing down the options.

As essayist Marina Adshade put it in her piece Why We’re Still Single, “Online daters are not really looking for the needle in the haystack as much as they are looking to eliminate the pieces of straw as quickly as possible to reveal the hidden needle.”

That’s a useful analogy. But eliminating the “no, thank you’s” can be extraordinarily time consuming. You get impatient; you find ways to speed up the process and cut corners. You scan profiles looking for red flags rather than green lights and you filter out the undesirables -- sometimes throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It’s a game of “reasons to reject” rather than “reasons to accept.”

The flaw in this method is that it focuses on a list of “must-have-and-non-negotiable” qualities and fails to take into account the value of the qualities a person has that aren’t absolute but are instead relative to other qualities. Or the way certain qualities might show up more strongly in one relationship and more dimly in another.

Let’s say you’re a woman looking for a man who describes himself as athletic and who shares your interest in books, bourbon and cigars. All of these qualities are important to you, but one is probably more important than another. You’ve set your search parameters to find a cigar-chomping, bourbon-swilling, literary type but missed noticing someone who had only one or two of those three attributes.

If you’d used a more organic search method (an introduction from friends or a professional matchmaker, for example) you might have met a man whose dedication to fitness more than made up for the fact that he prefers scotch and mainly listens to podcasts and audio books. Because he was filtered out online, you didn't give him a chance and you clicked or swiped on someone else entirely. You may have missed out on a far more compatible relationship partner.

This is part of the reason why a number of dating bloggers and social scientists have said that online dating is actually making it more difficult for single men and women to find love. From a “market perspective” there’s certainly abundance. Adshade attributes it to “relationship greed.”

I think dating greed or the greed of being single is a more accurate term, but whatever we call it, the underlying theme is this: We want it all! "I won't settle!" we tell ourselves indignantly. The short-sightedness is that we lose out on the chance to find someone who has more or most of what we’re looking for when we hyper-focus on one or a few attributes that get spotlighted within a digital medium.

Perhaps you’ve even been on a first date with someone who suffers from this. It’s kind of dis-incentivizing to get your flirt on or form a connection when you can see him or her mentally checking off boxes in their head over your plates of bruschetta, isn’t it? When it starts to feel more like a job interview than a getting-to-know-you, it’s time to either take a break or get some help with dating.

That's where I come in. I’d like to hear about how “dating greed” or “needle-in-the-haystack dating” has impacted your dating life. Email me at

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