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It is well documented that physical attractiveness is a major factor in romantic attraction, especially initial attraction (Sprecher, 1989).
Not surprisingly, physically attractive people are more successful at online dating (Hitsch et al., 2005).
One study of online daters found that most viewed each other as similar, and liked each other less, after than before their offline dates (Norton et al., 2007).
The sites can put too much focus on physical attractiveness.
This can be especially beneficial for people who don’t have a large social circle.
In addition to the sheer number of people you can meet, many sites provide an avenue for meeting like-minded people. Unlike other social venues, on an online dating site, you can be fairly certain that everyone you meet is single and looking.
But this can also lead you to pass up on potential dates because with all those options, you can't help but think, "There must be someone better out there." Online dating sites can thus foster an attitude in which potential mates are objectified like products on a store shelf, rather than people (Finkel et al., 2012). Online profiles are missing vital information you can only glean in person (Finkel et al., 2012), so it can be difficult to know if you’re really compatible with someone based solely on what they have shared on a dating site.
Research shows that people spend their time on dating sites searching criteria such as income and education, and physical attributes like height and body type, when what they need is information about the actual experience of interacting with and getting to know the person on the other end of the profile (Frost et al., 2008).
This suggests that online dating sites don’t facilitate slowly finding love the way that we often do offline. As mentioned earlier, those who are introverted or shy may find online dating more palatable than other ways of looking for love. I've had more than a few claim to love physical fitness and healthy eating, only to confess upon meeting, at which point it becomes obvious, that they actually do neither.
But in real life, after we get to know someone and like their personality, we begin to find them more physically appealing as well (Kniffin & Wilson, 2004).
Making a quick decision based on an online photo doesn’t allow for this slower development of physical attraction and may cause us to dismiss potential mates to whom we could become attracted.
But if we choose to focus only on online dating, because it’s safer, we could miss out on other opportunities to meet people. (2005), What Makes You Click: An Empirical Analysis of Online Dating, University of Chicago and MIT, Chicago and Cambridge. If they lie and obfuscate what will become readily apparent upon meeting, what other, more important, character traits are they lying about?
For more on misconceptions about online dating, read my post on 4 Myths about Online Dating. More importantly, that they don't see the problem inherent in the dishonest representation is a huge red flag.