The Illusion of Endless Choice in Online Dating

In the article, ‘What If I Never Find Love?’ Phillippa Perry examines the answers given by the Google search engine, and many pertinent points are revealed.

“Humans fear making the wrong choice more than they fear not making any choice at all, and with so many more alternative potential mates to choose from, people appear to be more reluctant to make that commitment. Instead, they keep on searching for an unreachable perfection. What we need to realise is that perfection is not love.” (Phillippa Perry ‘What If I Never Find Love’ The Guardian July 2015)

She (and Google) suggests that it may be time to change the ‘what if I don’t find love?’ question into ‘so what if I don’t find love?’ – arguing that love is often not what it’s cracked up to be and having a plan B is a reasonable option.

In her article, ‘Why Having So Many Choices Could Be The Worst Or The Best Thing About Online Dating’, Elyse Romano also confronts head on the issue of too much choice.

“Instead of making your life easier, online dating might be making it more stressful thanks to a psychological phenomenon called the ‘paradox of choice.’ The more choices you have, the more difficult it is to actually make one. Instead we consistently feel unsatisfied with our choices, or simply refuse to choose at all.”

Add to this our insatiable consumerist culture that constantly tells us that we need more and better ‘things’ – including people – as we search for instant gratification and that elusive satisfaction. (Elyse Romano ‘Why Having So Many Choices Could Be The Worst Or The Best Thing About Online Dating’ February 2015)

Maybe choice, or the confusing nature of what seems like too much choice, is one reason for so many people believing that dating in the modern era is terrible.

“An endless string of high hopes and dashed expectations, countless hours spent browsing photos on various sites and recurring nightmares of winding up alone…” is how Julia Rappaport describes it.

She recommends though that we should apply some common sense investigative skills such as: “knowing a few details about a person before meeting them can better prepare you to really listen to the good stuff”, and “part of earning trust with someone …is not just listening but also offering tidbits about yourself – be interested, ask; be vulnerable, share.” (Julia Rappaport ‘Love Story: When Journalism and Online Dating Combine’ The Writer 13 Feb 2017)

I know I have fallen into the trap of endless checking to see who’s new on a dating site, and collecting men on my list in the hope that one will stand out or several might be fall-backs. The grass always seems to be greener according to so many people dating these days – why should they settle for one not-so-perfect person when there might be someone better on the app screen later tonight? That’s such a destructive attitude and falls right into the consumerist mindset I described earlier.

The other point to note here is that the size of your city or area definitely has a big impact on how large your ‘pool’ of talent is likely to be online. Sure, if you live in New York you might have thousands of potentials (and also thousands of competitors), but if you live in a small city you might have less than 50. That is my lot and believe me, I have railed against it at times. It’s so frustrating to see so many more options in other states or cities, and what feels like a desert in mine!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and how it has affected your search.


8 thoughts on “The Illusion of Endless Choice in Online Dating

    1. That’s really interesting to hear. I think you’d have the opposite experience to me in my city of 1 million, where options can seem very limited. In your case though it must feel like a flood of possibilities but almost exhausting to work through?


      1. Well I’m in the suburbs so I don’t have the *quite* the flood of possibilities if I were directly in NYC. But there’s a still a lot to sift through out here. In the beginning the seemingly endless possibilities were too exciting to exhaust me, and as the years wore on I grew pretty adept at whittling down the pack. OKC was the best because I could immediately hide users who weren’t up to snuff. Lived in CT? Gone. Nothing on their profile? Gone. Physically unattractive? Gone. Has kids? Gone. Etc etc. etc. You get the picture. What I find interesting to hear is that – especially in a city of 1 million – that options can be limited. How’s that? Besides, I thought men typically outnumbered women on dating apps/sites.


      2. Assuming you must have used the paid version of okc? Pretty sure I never had those hide options on my version. The dating pool here? Well okc is not very big and even with the widest of parameters (eg 28 to 45, pic, height minimum 5ft9 are typically mine) the result is usually less than 50 potentials. There are some apps with more. I think the ratio of men:women is more like 60:40 here but I’m guessing


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