Internet dating

Is Online Dating a Good Way to Find Profound Love?

“The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.” – Andy Warhol

Most agree that online dating offers people a larger pool of romantic candidates. But is it easier to find long-term profound love online versus off? To examine this question, I will first describe what I mean by profound love and then consider the value of online dating in finding it.

Profound Love

“I date this girl for two years—and then the nagging starts: ‘I wanna know your name.’" – Mike Binder

Profundity and Superficiality

Profound activities are essential for our development and wellbeing; they have an enduring influence on our life and may also shape our personality. Superficial activities affect only the surface of our lives—they are more limited in their scope and immediate impact and they can have a negative influence on our lives, if we engage in them too frequently.

The distinction between profound and superficial phenomena is expressed in the romantic realm in the differentiation between romantic intensity and profundity, a distinction that is seldom made. Romantic intensity is like a snapshot of a given moment, whereas in romantic profundity the temporal dimension of love has greater significance. Romantic intensity expresses the momentary measure of passionate, often sexual, desire. Romantic profundity embodies occurrences of intense love over long periods of time, along with meaningful experiences that help the individuals to develop and flourish. Time is destructive for romantic intensity, and constitutive of romantic profundity.

The centrality of the connection and the dialogue

"Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." – Ursula K. LeGuin

In her excellent new book, Zwischen Ich und Du: Eine dialogische Philosophie der Liebe, Angelika Krebs (2015) argues that romantic love is not about each partner having the other as his or her object; love is about the connection between the partners. Loving somebody implies being deeply satisfied with the experiences and activities you share with the beloved. She further claims that at the basis of profound love there is a dialogue, which constitutes the nature of the connection. Several empirical studies confirm that the quality of romantic relationships increase with shared participation (e.g., Aron, et al., 2000; O’Leary, et al., 2010).

Choosing a romantic partner

“Happy people plan actions, they don't plan results.” – Dennis Wholey

In light of the centrality of the connection and dialogue in long-term profound love, choosing a romantic partner should focus on the value of the individual as a partner (more than as a person). Many of the qualities of the individual as a person can also be discerned by others who are superficially observing the individual; the agent has no privileged status in this regard. Revealing the value of the individual as a partner typically requires longer and more profound acquaintance with the individual.

The most relevant criterion for long-term romantic love is whether we prioritize the superficial or the profound in our search for romance, as well as whether we focus on the negative or the positive. There are 4 major ways of choosing a romantic partner:

1. The checklist manner: rejection at the first meeting (superficial, negative);

2. Love at first sight: falling in love at the first meeting (superficial, positive);

3. “There is nothing wrong with him”: detecting profound flaws (profound, negative);

4. Bringing out the best in each other: accentuate profound positive advantages (profound, positive).

The checklist manner

"Some people think having large breasts makes a woman stupid. Actually, it's quite the opposite: a woman having large breasts makes men stupid.“ – Rita Rudner

Establishing a checklist of the perfect partner's desirable (and undesirable) qualities is a common practice. Having compiled such a list, you mark next to each quality whether this is an attribute of a prospective partner. This kind of search, which is most common in online dating, has two major flaws: (a) it typically lacks any intrinsic hierarchy that would accord each quality a different weight—hence, it ignores the issue of romantic profundity; (b) it focuses on the other person’s qualities in isolation—hence, it ignores the centrality of the connection between the agents in profound love and therefore fails to consider the value of the other person as a partner.

The above flaws are particularly evident in online dating where such a list is compiled by each person in her self-description and is typically discussed at length in their first interactions. The checklist is a fast and efficient way of evaluating the other’s qualities, making it an initial useful tool in online dating, where there are many alluring candidates from whom to choose.

Love at first sight

“She was funny and sexy and cute, and I was immediately attracted to her personality. We may speak here about ‘Net chemistry.'” – A man describing his first chat with his woman

Love at first sight is essentially intense love. The great (typically, physical) attractiveness strikes you like a flash of lightening and you want to prolong the time you spend with the other person. Love at first sight can be the basis of long-term profound love, provided that characteristics revealed in later acquaintance enhance—or, at least, do not contradict—those attributed at first sight. Love at first sight cannot be profound as there has been no time for creating such profoundness.

Falling in love in cyberspace is similar to cases of love at first sight: we do not have all the required information, but we fill in the gaps with idealized assumptions. In light of this similarity, we can speak about “love at first chat.” For example, one may detect in the first chat a sense of humor and wittiness and instantly fall in love with the sender. It should be noted that, although beauty has a powerful impact at first sight, the weight of this impact decreases as time passes, when we get to know the person’s other characteristics. Likewise, wittiness has a powerful impact at first chat, but its impact may be reduced once we the person’s other characteristics begin to surface. When wittiness is perceived to be superficial, and more profound characteristics, such as kindness and wisdom, are found to be wanting, the weight of the initial positive impact of wittiness will likely diminish.

Although love at first chat can reveal more profound qualities than those involved in love at first sight, those qualities may still be superficial as the agent has no way of knowing whether the prospective partner is representing himself accurately. However, when the first chat turns into an online, and then offline, relationship, the likelihood of finding profound love increases.

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