Dating Apps Don't Work and It's Not Your Fault

According to a new study, it's impossible for online dating websites and apps to determine real life compatibility.

If you are one of millions of people hoping to swipe, click or type your way to meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, you might want to consider trying some other method that actually works. According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, matching with someone on paper — or with the help of apps or dating websites like Tinder, Match and eHarmony — does not translate to a love connection in real life.

“Attraction for a particular person may be difficult or impossible to predict before two people have actually met,” Samantha Joel, University of Utah psychology professor and lead author, shared in a press release. “A relationship is more than the sum of its parts. There is a shared experience that happens when you meet someone that can’t be predicted beforehand.”

Researchers had around 350 heterosexual undergrads at Northwestern University answer more than 100 questions about topics such as self-esteem, goals and what they were looking for in a romantic partner — the same types of questions you answer on dating sites. “Lots of traits that have been theorized to be important for relationships in past literature,” Joel explains about the questionnaire.

The participants met in a series of four-minute speed dates and afterward rated their level of interest and whether they were sexually attracted to their matches. And this is where it got really interesting.

Using an algorithm, researchers tested whether it was possible to predict which two people would be a match before they met based on the answers given on a questionnaire. However, though the test could determine who was going to be liked by others, it was an epic fail when it came to predicting which couples would be an actual match in person — which shocked Joel and her colleagues. “I thought that out of more than 100 predictors, we would be able to predict at least some portion of the variance. I didn’t expect we would find zero,” she says.

In other words, online dating and apps aren’t a surefire way to connect with your soul mate.

“We tried to do it, and we couldn’t do it,” Joel continues. “Dating can be hard and anxiety provoking, and there’s a market there for a shortcut. What if you didn’t have to kiss all the frogs? What if you could skip to the part where you click with someone? But our data suggests that, at least with the tools we currently have available, there isn’t an easy fix for finding love.”

A 2012 report published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest came to the same conclusion: Algorithms can’t predict whether a relationship can work based on interests and personalities.

But don’t delete your online profile just yet: While science may not be able to determine whether you are going to click with someone in real life, that doesn’t mean using dating websites as a tool to meet people is such a bad idea. Joel points out that they can narrow your dating pool and connect you with people you have things in common with, but unfortunately “don’t let you bypass the process of having to physically meet someone to find out how you feel about them.”

Basically, there’s no easy way to finding your soul mate. But if you want to increase your odds, it doesn’t hurt to shop around for a mate the old-fashioned way — in real life. That way you can find out if there are legitimate sparks without wasting too much of your cellular data.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by the findings of this study? What has been your experience with online dating? Do you think you can you predict whether two people will be a match?