Online Daters Pursue Partners Who Are Out Of Their League, Says New Study

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In breaking online dating news, it turns out that both men and women have high swiping standards and tend to go for partners who are more desirable than they are. A recent study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at the (heterosexual) dating markets in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle. Researchers essentially reviewed the messages sent from one unnamed dating app, using some serious data analysis to determine how people went about finding a partner.

First and foremost, the researchers quantified what made someone “desirable,” which they based on how many messages a person received, and no shocker here: The results were vastly different for men and women, with older men being much more desirable than older women. Peak age for a guy was 50 while peak age for a woman was 18…and, yeah, we feel the same way you do reading this.

Other factors that made people more desirable included education and ethnicity. In considering all of this, though, it’s important to note that there was no data included as to why these factors were more desirable, says Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and Relationship Expert at TONE Networks, which is a key part of the puzzle when it comes to dating behavior.

And while the study found that many online daters tend to message people who are equally as desirable as they are, a majority of both men and women also contact partners who are higher up the ladder (and almost none messaging those who are less desirable). The outcome of aiming for someone out of your league? Once again, the results differed based on gender. Men who sent messages to more desirable women had only a 21 percent response rate. Women were more likely to receive a response from men deemed more desirable, but in both cases, the likelihood of receiving a response decreased significantly based on just how much more desirable the potential partner was. Still, the study also found that people who were aiming high did tend to send fewer messages overall, pointing to a “quality over quantity” approach.

So. what’s a single person to do with all this info? Keep in mind that this whole concept of desirability is very different online than offline. It’s way more pronounced in the online world — which the study did point out — so don’t get too hung up on the odds or the numbers. Plus, “not all people date online, so while this data may represent what is desirable to those who use online dating, it may not represent those who do not use such platforms,” Dr. Durvasula points out. And even though online dating allows for these types of data-driven studies, human behavior is still unpredictable, and dating involves a whole number of other factors that simply can’t be quantified.

The bottom line: Whether dating online or IRL, don’t get too hung up on whether or not someone is out of your league. Initiate contact with people whom you’re attracted to and have the characteristics you’re looking for, then take it from there.

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