Veronica Ryan, a single 26-year-old marketing executive based in Dallas, Texas, said she swipes right on potential matches on Bumble based on a combination of personality, looks, and job. In many cases she will take someone with a sense of humor over someone who is more good looking, she said, and career plays a lesser but still significant role in matching.
“I definitely swipe on people out of my league for the hell of it,” she said. “It’s kind of a game when it comes to those picks — if they swipe back, it’s a surge of fun.”
Confidence is key when dating, but is it possible to take your self-assurance too far? Most online daters are swiping right on people who are out of their league, a study carried out by University of Michigan researchers and published on this week by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found.
Women who match with a man who is more desirable than they are will send him a longer, more detailed message.
Both men and women pursue partners 25% more desirable than themselves on average, the analysis of hundreds of thousands of heterosexual users of a popular and free (and unnamed) online dating service found. It studied dating habits in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Seattle and calculated desirability based on the number of messages a single person received as well as the number of messages the person messaging them received.
Single people also put more of an effort into wooing a partner who is perceived as more desirable, the latest study showed, if and when they actually match. Women who match with a man who is more desirable than they are will send him a longer, more detailed message. People who pursue more desirable partners also tend to send fewer messages, seeking quality over quantity, the study said.
Ian Servantes, a writer based in New York City, said he often “swipes right” on women on dating apps that he feels are much more attractive than him. The 26-year-old, who spent four years online before finding his current partner, said he thinks it’s important people “shoot their shot” and go for any potential partners that interest them.
“I’ve hooked up with and dated people I thought were out of my league,” he said. “I thought my girlfriend was, and apparently she thought the same of me.”
In other words, many singletons are treating online dating like gambling or how sports fans treat a fantasy football league, setting many bets on valuable matches with little risk of striking out, said Erika Kaplan, regional manager and senior Matchmaker with Three Day Rule, a matchmaking company based in Los Angeles.
“Online dating creates this false sense of choice that makes daters see their options as more plentiful than they actually are,” she said. “The stakes feel very low because swiping on an app can make you forget you’re a real person swiping on real people. People feel they may as well aim big.”
Many Americans are burnt out on dating, and turning online dating into an aspirational game may contribute to that.
Many Americans are burnt out on dating, and the culture of turning online dating into a game may be contributing to that, experts say. The structure of swipe-based apps encourages people to pursue strangers who they probably would have no hope of dating in real life, said dating coach Meredith Golden. “When a desired match doesn’t happen, there are plenty of other ‘out of their league’ singles to keep swiping on,” she said.
That keeps people coming back for more. The desire, however, unrealistic can be intoxicating. The dating industry is worth around $3 billion and increases about 5% a year, with revenue split between advertising and subscription services, according to a report by research firm IBISWorld. Of that, around half is from online dating. Tinder was valued at $3 billion in 2017.
Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent” said the study needs to take into account more factors regarding desirability, including race, age, education, and gender.
An Ivy League education may make up a man or woman who doesn’t have the classic features sought after by lonely singletons, such as toned biceps or glowing skin. This study found daters overwhelmingly seek out someone similar to themselves in terms of race, education, and other attributes.
Race has been shown to play a major role in desirability, according to a 2014 study from
It showed black women were rated lower than other ethnicities and Asian men were rated lower than others according to the data. Regardless of one’s statistical desirability, however, single people should take a hard look at their assets, Walfish said.
“Self-awareness is key,” Walfish said. “One needs to bear taking an open, honest, and sometimes painful look within to accurately see who they.” In other words, a dazzling smile or a summer beach body isn’t everything.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.