I was discussing social media with a colleague the other day, and I made the point that many of the features in social media work in part because we expect them to.

Regardless of whether the matching formula in eHarmony works as well as advertised, it is more likely that you’ll meet your lifemate there than on many other sites. Why?First, because the population that goes to eHarmony self-selects. You go there to find a spouse. It seems more likely that the people there are open to serious relationships than, say, the people you meet at www.sluttyhookups.com (note that as of 11pm Pacific time, the domain is available – I’ll take it as an experiment to see how long before it’s claimed…), because the people who choose to go to eHarmony are looking for a wedding ring, not a night in the sack.

Second, because there is a ‘halo effect’ around the selections – if you believe that the people chosen for you are ‘potential mates’, you’re likely to be more open to connection and relationships than you would be with the person you met down at the Coffee Bean.

This isn’t a diss on the usefulness of eHarmony or other dating sites – we know four great couples that have met, married, and stuck starting there.

But it’s something to think about as you contemplate the impact of social media on people’s choices – whether for mates, for shopping, or for politicians.

8 thoughts on “Expectations”

  1. Now, hold on. :)

    How would one judge, at this remove, whether anyone has met their “lifemate” at eHarmony — let alone that it is more likely that you will do so? I mean, when we can talk about how many people made it to their 20th or 30th or 50th anniversary — or their 10th! — then we’ll have a bit of data to consider.

    I’m not saying that what you say doesn’t make sense as far as it goes — the self-selecting thing is a good point. Still, the data as it stands is a bit too thin to make much out of it.

  2. I met my wife on one of these sites. Not eharmony, but match.com. Neither of us said we were looking to be married in advance, but that is how it worked out.

    I was tired of meeting women at “the Coffee Bean.” These sites are wonderful for screening out the overwhelming majority of the population we’re all incompatible with.

  3. I met my wife on a matching site as well, and we’ve been happily married for almost nine years. There’s a whole lot of early-stage “what are you looking for in a relationship” junk and complete personality whiffs that these sites help you avoid.

    Also, if you’re an introverted sort who doesn’t do well at parties or “social scene” places, these sites can be a godsend.

    Matchmaking is an ancient and honorable tradition in many societies, and it’s far from surprising that its modern form has done well.

  4. Well, I met my wife online as well, as it happens — although not at a matchmaking site. We met online through mutual interests.

    There’s much to be said for it.

  5. Lots of people assume you meet someone, experience a spark, pair up, settle down, and make it work for a lifetime. For them, it doesn’t matter all that much how you meet. You probably were thrown together by circumstances. Maybe mutual friends fixed you up. It seems to work, as long as both partners assume that loyalty and perseverance are a given.

    Others seem to spend a lot of time wondering how the magical process will work that conjures up the perfect mate who will stay perfect forever. It strikes me that they tend to marry and divorce and remarry a lot. I call this “dating with a wedding ring.”

  6. Texan99: Good observation.

    I’ve always had this theory that the more people you date, the less likely you are to stay with someone. I’m not at all in favor of arranged marriages, but I can see why they work.

    I knew a Korean girl in college who told me that as soon as she finished college, she would go back to Korea so that her parents could find her a nice Korean boy to settle down with. Not my cup of tea, but I think that probably works better than what has become ‘the American system’.

    I think that AL is party right about how matching making works, but I think he misses that the other reason it probably works is by reducing the amount of dating that occurs to a more managable level. Any process that reduces the dating pool down to a group you think of as “Potential life partners” without creating emotional and sexual baggage, ennui, self-doubt, regrets, cynacism, criticism, bitterness and the rest of the things you are just as likely to find dating as a mate is probably going to be pretty successful.

    I don’t think that there is any evidence that dating broadly leads to longer relationships because ‘you found the right person’.

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