Too much of a good thing might actually be a bad thing.
There’s no denying that dating apps have changed the landscape of modern dating and relationships. And while, sure, their intended purpose is to help you find that special someone, the sheer amount of choices these apps offer can sometimes actually make partner picking more problematic. Oh, the irony.
“It’s not unlike walking into the grocery store and seeing 20 different kinds of granola, says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert at Tone Networks. “You get so overwhelmed that you make decisions based on criteria that may not result in good quality, like the cheapest option or the one with the most colorful packaging.” Dating apps turn the process of dating — and relationships — into consumerism, where you’re supposed to choose from the never-ending lists and photos of potential prospects the same way you would buy that bag of granola, she adds.
It boils down to basic human psychology and the paradox of choice: Numerous choices tend to overwhelm us, and we often make poorer decisions as a result…or no decision at all. When it comes to granola, the consequences are minor (hey, you can always try the grain-free blueberry chia next time), but when it comes to dating and human interaction, this can be much more problematic. In fact, one study found that “online daters who chose from a large set of potential partners were less satisfied with their choice than those who selected from a small set.”
Adding insult to injury, women are more susceptible to the effects of choice overload than men. “Men are visual and tend to choose more consistently from that standpoint,” explains Dr. Durvasula. “Women will value appearance, but also accomplishment, career, and other personal factors. They have more variables to sort through in order to make a choice, which becomes more time consuming and overwhelming.” Translation: A guy will swipe right away based on who he thinks is good looking, without giving it much thought. A woman will want to look at all the photos, read the profile, maybe do a little online stalking, get her friends’ input — you get the picture — before she decides her next move.
So, what’s the solution to choice overload? First of all, choose one dating app — yes, one — and delete the others. “This is not a volume business. Do your homework and try them all out, but reject the ones that aren’t working for you and narrow it down to one that is. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time swiping than actually meeting real human beings,” advises Dr. Durvasula. Now, if only there was an equally easy way to choose that granola…