We do not settle for anything less than perfect anymore: how online dating has turned finding love into window shopping

“Love is not finding the winning lottery ticket, it is accepting imperfections someone might have, willing to step beyond your differences and finding a compromise, it is loving someone regardless.

Now that this year’s Valentine’s day has passed again, you might have found yourself sitting it out at home. Yet another 14th of February went by and, perhaps slightly disappointed, you opened up your favourite streaming service to waste the time with  some love infested drama series. If this sounds vaguely familiar, there might be comforting news: you are not the only one. Furthermore, the number of people suffering the same fate is only increasing each year.

Indeed, surveys show the share of correspondents being single on Valentine’s Day has been growing for roughly the last decade. However, our pool of potential partners has not decreased, and our options to contact others have only improved. There are so many of us longing for love. So, what is it that causes our dating behaviour to be so different from before? According to sociologists, the change in our behaviour can be largely attributed to two factors: being online and popular culture.

“Online dating has changed the way we think about love”, says sociologist Marie Bergström. While in the era before social media, we had to go out and meet new people, talk to them, form a bond through interaction, we now are presented with an endless amount of people on our phones. This overwhelming supply of all sorts of different individuals has made us picky. The narrative created by online dating, as Bergström puts it, is that “there’s someone out there for you, someone made for you, a soulmate, and you just need to find that person.” Online dating apps encourage us to be proactive and not wait around for that person. Social media as a whole also contributes to this phenomenon. The exposure to so many interesting, picture perfect people can cause our expectations to be twisted.

What this means in reality, is that we believe that a perfect partner exists, causing us to be reluctant to settle for anything less. On top of that, the ease at which we can encounter new people by simply swiping makes it really easy for us to reject someone that does not completely fit our dream image.

Another contributing factor is popular culture, most notably filmmaking. In so many movies or series, true love plays a key role. “In particular, one idea that has been really strong in the past, certainly in Hollywood movies, is that love is something you can bump into, unexpectedly, during a random encounter”, says Bergström. This paints an image of true love that neglects the possibility that true love takes time and needs to be built, causing us to become more impatient.

In my opinion, this has caused us to largely neglect that a perfect person simply does not exist. Love is not finding the winning lottery ticket, it is accepting imperfections someone might have, willing to step beyond your differences and finding a compromise, it is loving someone regardless. I think the building process is what makes a relationship meaningful, and that has nowadays become easier to avoid because of the infinite supply.

So until next Valentine’s Day, if you would like to avoid this year’s fiasco, I would encourage each and every one of you to give others a chance. Refrain from judging books by their cover, and avoid being put off by the simplest, superficial features. Stop fending off love by imposing your own extensive, fixed set of criteria. 

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