Online Dating’s ‘Too Many Choices’ Has Led To A Rejection Mindset In People, Says Study
When I had just started out as a writer, I was always attending events and after-parties and if anyone knew me, they would tell you I wasn’t half as lazy as I am today. That meant I would care about my outfit (unfortunately, back then I didn’t wear makeup!) and my hair. In fact, it became a routine for me to go out shopping just before an important party. Repeating outfits? Oh, I was too shallow to do that. I didn’t have time or access to 500+ products, so I browsed quickly through the limited options available and almost always made the purchase. Cut to today, I have several products lying in my cart on all possible e-commerce apps, and the only way for me to narrow down the choices is when they go out of stock. Or I go with “Oh, I can find something better!” Who knew dating would come down to something like this?
A couple of years ago, I was crushing on this guy who was apparently looking for a long-term partner, but it seemed like nobody was ever enough. He browsed through choices on matrimonial apps, canoodled with me but none of us women could seem worthy enough to him. Today, he is still single and has not even gone close to finding a match. What could be possibly wrong with every woman he meets? If you ask me, he is the shopper who thinks there’s something better out there, someone who would feel like bespoke wear to him. The more options he finds, the more he wants to keep looking.
It’s not like we don’t want to date but are we going on a rejection spree when there’s an ocean of fish out there? God knows how fast I jump in and out of dating apps, leaving my poor matches high and dry. I am terrible, I know. But somehow, I just don’t like the feel of several guys asking me the same sort of questions and being on the same plateau of attractiveness. Unless you stand out, my interest just drops. I have been spoilt for choices and let’s be honest, my mantra has never found me a boyfriend online.
Are we doomed? Are we getting entangled in the web of online dating and materialism that we had spun ourselves? According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, having an influx of options in the dating pool makes us more likely to reject them without much thought. Toh kya karu main? Marr jau?
“As an example, the 10 million active daily users of the popular online dating application Tinder are on average presented with 140 partner options a day (Smith, 2018). While one may expect this drastic increase in mating opportunities to result in an increasing number of romantic relationships, the opposite has occurred: The rise of online dating coincided with an increase in the amount of singles in society,” the study reads. It further poses the question, “What could explain this paradox in modern dating?”
Study author Tila Pronk, an assistant professor of social psychology at Tilburg University told PsyPost, “Thanks to online dating, there are more possibilities to meet new partners than ever before, yet at the same time there have never been more people single in western society. I wanted to investigate this paradox, and did so by developing a dating paradigm similar to the most popular online dating application: Tinder.”
Pronk and her colleagues conducted three studies to come to the conclusion. In the first study, participants were shown Pronk and her colleagues conducted three studies of single, heterosexual individuals. They focused on those aged 18 to 30, as this is the age group most likely to be involved in online dating.
In the first study, participants were divided in two sets – one was shown 45 options and the other was shown 90. Previous research suggests the ideal number of dating options range between 20 and 50. The second study offered participants real, available single people around them. In the third study, participants were shown 50 pictures of potential options, 10 at a time.
In the third study, 305 participants were shown 50 pictures of potential partners, which were divided into blocks of 10. Every time they completed a block, the participants answered several questions about their experience with the task.
“The continued access to an almost limitless pool of potential partners when online dating has negative side effects: it makes people more pessimistic and rejecting. We coined this phenomenon the ‘rejection mindset.’ The consequence of the rejection mindset is that over time, people ‘close off’ from mating opportunities when online dating,” Pronk told PsyPost.
The study revealed two psychological mechanisms behind this rejection mindset – increasing dissatisfaction with the options and decreasing belief in finding a worthy match through online dating. Going through so many bad profiles, it seems like we start losing faith and appetite for online dating. And since it often comes down to looks, do we even look at the options as a whole person? We see them as a set of features but when you know a person, they somehow become more attractive. Have you ever watched a series in which you didn’t find a particular character good looking in the first episode but quite sexy in the last? Attraction takes time and we may be too soon to dismiss people based on bad noses.
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It will possibly be beneficial if we restrict our searches. In fact, even limiting the number of guys we are speaking to simultaneously will help. Like bad sex puts you off sex, bad dating puts you off dating. Wait, is this how we are closing ourselves off due to too many options. It’s quite an irony! Having said that, a moderated rejection mindset couldn’t be so bad, especially if we are aware of this phenomenon. I’d like to keep myself open to possibilities and hence, I vehemently avoid going on dates with or talking to unworthy men. But then again, being a little more accepting doesn’t hurt.