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Welcome to Day 20 of 30 Days of Dating Advice for Intellectual Badasses. Yesterday, I talked about what to expect from online dating, recognizing that it’s significantly different from conventional dating and that not being prepared for that can work against you. Today, I want to talk about online dating criteria – you know, that endless menu of options you can select on any online dating site – and they too can work against you.

Most Online Dating Criteria are Utterly Worthless

When you sign up on any online dating site, you’re given a host of options and parameters of what you would like in a partner. They have drop-down menus for everything: age, height, body type, hair color, eye color, marital status, religion, kids, ethnicity, smoking, drinking, fitness, pets, you name it. You can utilize these parameters to search for potential dates; you can also use them to screen out the wrong people.

The problem with most of these criteria is that they tell you little or nothing about whether or not someone would be right for you. In all my years in the behavioral sciences, I’ve never run across a study showing that height significantly predicts relationship success or that the number of days per week you work out predicts how long a couple will stay married. I’ve certainly never seen any study showing that blue-eyed people do better together or that all divorced people have baggage.

Okay, I admit that some of these criteria can be useful. For example, there is evidence that relationships with large age differences can be challenging, and smokers and non-smokers probably don’t make the best match. Using online criteria to weed out people you know aren’t right for you is a good thing. Unfortunately, many people use their online criteria to find their ideal person, rather than as a tool to rule out people who are clearly wrong for them. I call this Design-Your-Ideal-Mate Syndrome.

Design-Your-Ideal-Mate Syndrome

Online dating makes it very tempting to be too choosy. After all, with that big menu of options, and thousands of people to choose from, why not aim for athletic women with blonde hair and blue eyes who’ve never been married, or six foot tall guys with dark hair and good incomes?

Here’s why not: because you don’t know if these ideal mates will actually make you happy in real life. And when you aim for your ideal, you’re far more likely to miss out on someone great.

You may be thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me. I’m open-minded about the people I meet online.” Glad to hear it. But if that’s the case, you’re in the minority. Because when I get online and look around, I see a LOT of women seeking much taller men and a LOT of men seeking women only their age or younger. I see a lot of people unnecessarily limiting their options. Most women are willing to date shorter men and most men are willing to date a woman who’s a few years older. But by narrowing your online criteria to your ideal, you effectively eliminate a lot of potential dates.

Use Criteria as a Screener Only

The truth is, you aren’t going to find out the most important stuff until you meet someone in person. What stuff am I talking about? Those things that predict relationship success: chemistry and compatibility – in other words, whether you both “click” and how compatible you are in terms of personality and values.

Does this mean you should go out with any person you come across online? No. Criteria can be used as a screening tool to weed out people with whom it could never work. And you will find that most people have only a few “Hell No” items.

“But I don’t want to settle!” you say. I don’t want you to either. But you won’t know if you’re settling until you meet someone and get to know them.

Keep your parameters broad when dating online. Then, when you meet and get to know someone, you can narrow them.

What say you, IBs? Are there criteria you MUST HAVE online, or that you learned aren’t as important as you thought?


Some useful links:

A recap of what we’ve covered so far in the 30-Day IB Campaign

Christie’s books