Washington - Like most singles in the modern age, I have now met far more dating prospects online than anywhere else. But despite the swarms of matches over the years, I've never had an app date turn into an actual relationship.
I'm not the only one feeling frustrated. Many other singles I've spoken to have declared a "love-hate relationship" with dating apps.
It's great that you can swipe on an app and find new dates quickly. What's less great is how few of those dates seem to stick, and how chaotic the landscape can seem. In fact, last summer's app dates became so tangled up, I started a spreadsheet to keep track. Not one blossomed into an a relationship.
I started to develop a theory that all that work of matching and meeting up is actually counterproductive. Let's be clear: There are benefits to dating online.
Michael Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at Stanford University, notes that you can filter more effectively by learning a bit about your partner before you ever say hello, as well as "disqualify" an inappropriate match for bad behavior with a few taps to unmatch. Also important in the search, "a larger choice set means people have a greater chance of finding a match, especially if they are looking for something hard to find - like a same-sex partner, or a partner who is a vegetarian mountain climbing Catholic," Rosenfeld explains.
Online dating can work if the chips fall into place just right. There's evidence that "relationship quality and duration do not depend on how couples meet," Rosenfeld says, citing research that has long given me hope for the apps, and that "couples who meet through friends or through family are no happier and no more likely to stay together."
But there's also research from Michigan State University suggesting that couples who meet online are 28 percent more likely to split up within one year.
Study author Aditi Paul explained that when you meet someone swiping among so many other options, you're probably more aware that there are other potential relationships on the horizon at any given time. You also don't share a social network, so it takes more time to make a true judgment call on a romantic prospect.
My single friends and I talk a lot about where we meet our matches, and how we engage with that person as a result.
"A lot of this relates to what we know about social networks," says Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "Information flows freely among people who are strongly connected to each other; it does not tend to flow that freely from one group of people who are tightly connected to another group that shares few connections to it."
Context matters, because it sets stakes for the relationship, Markman says. "Meeting someone at a bar sets different expectations for the seriousness of the relationship compared to meeting someone at work or in another social setting," he explains.
"That doesn't mean that a long-term bond can't form when you meet someone on Tinder, but the context sets expectations. If you meet someone at work, you are going to want a deeper social connection before you consider a romantic attachment to them, because you know you are going to encounter them again at work. So, you don't want to do something that will make your work life uncomfortable."