Does Online Dating Offer Too Much Choice?

Readers sound off on a recent post:

Alexis Madrigal doesn’t actually rebut Dan Slater’s piece. I don’t believe Dan is arguing that online dating allows for superficial connections that diminish each dater’s need to put in much effort.  He was saying that it makes it so easy to meet someone new who might be more compatible that it diminishes one’s desire to stop the searching process once one has merely found someone they “like” rather than “adore.”  He isn’t saying that it makes it superficial; he’s saying it makes it too easy to find someone new.

Do any of you watch How I Met Your Mother?  There is an apropos episode where Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) puts his phone number on a sign that is shown on the TV during the Super Bowl.  Throughout the ensuing episode he receives call after call from similarly hot women while he’s entertaining the previous caller. He always rushes to meet this “new” object of his attention because she simply may be “better.”

This is a common phenomenon in the online dating world.  A close friend of mine started dating a perfectly attractive, entertaining and intelligent woman who he met through OKCupid.

After a few dates she started suggesting that he should delete his profile. He never did.  Although he wasn’t someone who was only interest in one-night stands, and was searching for a relationship, he didn’t want to stop searching. While this woman was a great match, the allure of something “better” remained.  OKCupid simply made it too easy to find someone that “might” be “better” immediately in a way that pre-Internet dating didn’t provide nearly as readily.


This discussion on online dating threatening or changing monogamy is so much more complex than “Jacobs” experience in Slater’s article, from which I took away much different conclusions and perspective.

First, the disclosures. I am 32, relatively single, childless, and I think monogamy is for those who are religious or need dependency. I say relatively single because when one rejects the premise that all dating is about finding ONE person for companionship, intimacy, dedication, commitment, sexual fulfillment and obligatory attendance at events, then one finds all these things in a series of overlapping relationships that are often more and better in many respects than monogamous couples find in seeking so much from just one person.

Now, my life revolves around very sincere, loving, but often non-discrete relations. “Friends”, “Ex’s”, “lovers”, “daters”, “hook-up partners”, and “the undefined”. For example, I have an ex-girlfriend who I dated for four months three years ago. We chat via email, FB, and text often, but not frequently. We consult each other on music, our professions, culture, and life in general. In the past three years, we sometimes get together and sure an encounter ends up with sex, a “sleepover”, or it’s just a cup of coffee. We decide she is just one of many in my life who I know and have a relationship that is now many years old, but has punctuation and gaps, could include sexual relations or not, is very intimate, but also sometimes just about the weather.

We all love it. We get so much out of it. Trust, loyalty, satisfaction, commitment is all there, but it evolves all the time. Communication is always important. I am going to know and have strong relations with many and they will last a long time, but it is not marriage or monogamy.

If anything, online dating has allowed those who want marriage/monogamy to state that and go for it. For those who are seeking something else (but not just a hookup – there is plenty of that), we can also state that. However, social mores prevail and men are not allowed to be as open about this as women. Men who state explicitly looking for the one night stand are shunned.