Dating Apps Make it Harder to Find Love

Published by Isabelle Bousquette on


Dating Apps Make It Harder to Find Love

In a romance culture dominated by choice, we’re often unsure we’ve made the right one.

Isabelle Bousquette | Avant-Youth

One of the most famous psychological studies on choice had nothing to do with romance. Instead, it had to do with jam. 

In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted an experiment. In a busy supermarket, they set up a display table with 24 varieties of jam. They invited those who sampled the jams to receive a one dollar  coupon. 

On a different day, they set up a display with only six varieties of jam. It turns out, people who saw the small display were far more likely to purchase jam than people who saw the large display. Not only that, but people who purchased from the large display were far less satisfied with their jam purchases. 

It turns out, having too much choice isn’t always a good thing. 

This experiment was the clearest example of what psychologists call the “paradox of choice.” The idea is that when we have more choices, we find it harder to make decisions, and we’re not as happy with the decisions we do make. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the way shoppers felt about jam is the same way millennials feel about romance. We have too many choices. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the world of dating apps. 

Tinder alone provides thousands of potential matches. If you’re not happy with any of them, then there are 1,500 other dating apps and websites you can try. In a world where an estimated 15 percent of the population are active on dating apps, the possibilities are endless.

The more options we have, the higher our expectations are for a potential partner. We start to believe in the idea that there’s one perfect person destined for us. The problem with this soulmate complex isn’t the idea that there’s one person meant for us; it’s the idea that there is a perfect person meant for us.

Even if you go out with someone really great, you can easily talk yourself into believing there’s someone better. That gnawing feeling can be incredibly hard to dismiss. 

A landmark study on millennial romance was completed by comedian Aziz Ansari of Parks & Rec. Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, is full of relatable case studies. He met one man, Derek, whom he referred to as a “mediocre white guy.” 

He writes that when Derek logged onto his OkCupid, “The first woman he clicked on was very beautiful, with a witty profile page, a good job and lots of shared interests, including a love of sports. After looking the page over for a minute or so, Derek said, ‘Well, she looks O.K. I’m just gonna keep looking for a while.’”

At one point or another, we all act as Derek did. We have expectations that are out of line with reality. More often than not, relationships fail because one partner does not or cannot live up to the expectations of the other. 

So the more options we have, the higher expectations we have for a relationship. The higher those expectations are, the less likely anyone will live up to them. In a world where dating apps and websites have provided so many romantic options, people are actually having a harder time finding meaningful relationships. 

 In order to combat unrealistic expectations and the paradox of choice, we have to accept that there are no perfect partners or perfect relationships – that we ourselves are not perfect partners. Instead, there are imperfect partners and imperfect relationships. You just have to find the best imperfect person that works for you. 

It’s easy to jump ship as soon as you discover someone’s flaws. It’s easy because we know there are hundreds of other matches waiting for us on Tinder. However, it’s much more fulfilling to invest in a relationship where, even if you don’t see perfection, you see potential.

For a wider examination of the romantic paradox of choice and millennial dating habits, see Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg. 

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