Problem with online dating services
It is a deep dark secret of mine that I used to be a philatelist—yes, you can denigrate that fine hobby by calling it stamp collecting if you wish.I collected certain kinds of 19th-century postal history (mailed envelopes) and I used to enjoy travelling from dealer to dealer digging through bins of musty postal history looking for the items that I collected. Collecting postal history has gone from a labor of seeking out interesting shops and sales and digging through musty boxes to one of logging on to e Bay, typing in a search request (19th-century postal history), and clicking on whatever envelope covers catch my eye. Now I realize that the economic language of frictionless markets isn't very romantic, but the fact is that the dating game is a kind of market whether we want to admit it or not.
But while online dating minimizes the heartache periods, minimizing those periods really doesn't do us any favors—we are losing periods of reflection when we might be thinking about what we did right and wrong, how we can improve as individuals, and what we might be open to next time.The other consequence is that it reduces the cost of moving on to something new.Not only is what you have less valuable, but trading for something new is less expensive as well.Of course online dating services can randomize their matching algorithms to supply unlikely options—but these options are always served against a backdrop in which more likely options are plentiful, easy to obtain, and on the face of it less risky.We need the scarcity to propel us to try the unlikely pairings.Of course online dating is still work, but the emotional labor and risk of failure has been significantly reduced.
Slater picks up on two unintended consequences of a low-friction dating market.
The search process has for all practical purposes become frictionless, and the net result is that it just isn't fun anymore. Finding a partner used to be expensive, and the market was inefficient.
If you lived in a large city, there were always people looking for partners, but the problem was how to find them.
Here is another problem that I consider to be more serious.
One advantage of inefficient dating markets is that in times of scarcity we sometimes take chances on things we wouldn't otherwise try.
Dan Slater asks whether online dating leads us to value our relationships less and whether that is a problem.