The Evolution of Online Dating

datingappsFor the overwhelming majority of the last 2.8 million years, human beings have lived in small groups. A female homo sapien in a hunter/gatherer tribe typically only had a small number of men from which to choose a mate. It’s unclear whether she even had a choice with whom she mated with, but the “dating pool” probably only consisted of 3-4 males who managed to physically fight off the other competing males to reproduce with her. Only recently have our social circles bloated to a point where the potential pool of mates has now surpassed the 1,000,000+ range.

fighting gorillas

Old School

Over all those years, it’s been a relatively slow growth in mating options for females until very recently. The social circles of opportunity grew due to advances in agriculture and larger populations of people convening in one area (small towns), instead of migrating in relative isolation for the majority of their lives. Once major cities and towns began to be the norm, the value of the attractive female specimen immediately became apparent, and the worlds oldest profession was born. There is a reason that 80% of prostitutes in the world are females, and the 20% that are male are mostly for other men. The reason is demand.

Before the invention of the internet and online dating, a female had a very finite group of (usually less than a few hundred) males from which she could choose to mate. The invention of automobiles and commercial airlines, coupled with the widespread use of dating websites and applications like Tinder has led to a definitive trend : Women are realizing their full value in the marketplace of mating.

Millenniums have come and gone, as generation after generation of women remained relatively unaware of their potential value. Their only perspective on how desirable they were, or what caliber of man they could expect to mate with, was determined by the preferences of a small community of people they spent their entire lives with. In short, there was a whole lot of settling going on. A male’s value as a mate vs. that of a woman’s has existed in a very sheltered environment with such a narrow range of candidates for both parties. This limited universe of mates made it impossible for people to have a global perspective on their true value, and consequently, the inevitable market correction could never truly take place – until now.

Online dating now provides a far broader audience to broadcast an advertisement for yourself as a mate, and realize the true demand for the product you are offering. For most women, they are discovering that both the quality and quantity of men is significantly higher than their expectations going into the market. For the vast majority of men, it’s a sobering, soul-crushing new reality they now face. Instead of just having to compete with a handful of daunting male specimens in their local town, they now have to compete with every superior male specimen within a 150 mile radius.

A counter-argument at this point in the conversation might sound something like : “But, now there are so many more people to choose from for the guys! “. This is true. But, my theory is that the top 10% of good-looking guys will not just try to have one partner. They will try to have as many as they can possibly manage. So, they won’t just stick to the most desirable girls, like they might have historically done in their small town. They will now try to mate with ALL the girls they can possibly manage.

Average competition

Average competition

So, Sam (pictured above) here ends up competing with Mr. unnamed (pictured below) for not just the top 20% beautiful women, but for all the average-looking women as well.

No chance.

No chance.

And the Sams of the world will burn a lot of bridges along the way. Feelings will be hurt, scary doctor visits will be had – but, the mating will not stop. So, where does this leave the average looking guys? Or God forbid, bottom 40% of physically attractive guys? It leaves them frustrated and insecure – both of which are not conducive traits for attracting a female.

Furthermore, in the pre-internet world, guys used to be able to achieve dating success by being charming, funny, intelligent, or kind. In today’s Tinder/Photoshop culture, the average or below average looking guy can’t even get to the first date to display these qualities because the girl’s inbox is flooded with 150 male models hotter than any guy she’s ever been with, all aggressively trying to woo her. As she swipes through picture after picture, she may rarely even read the profile blurb, choosing instead to just go with her primal reaction to one basic question: is the guy she’s currently looking at more physically appealing than the 50 other super hot guys, who have already matched with her?

swipe right

Drawing dead.

The average guy doesn’t even get a chance to speak because the girl’s expectations have now been rewired. This leads to women excitedly agreeing to go out with the dreamy guy she never thought she had a chance to get. Then, once she mates with the guy, she quickly realizes her respective value to the top 10% of guys, which is virtually nothing. The reality is that she is immediately replaceable. Even in the scenario where she ends up rejecting her date, he probably has multiple dates waiting in the wings – sometimes on the same night. And if she chooses not to mate quickly, she will find that her hunky mound of perfection is willing to put in a disappointingly small amount of effort into pursuing her beyond texting a few eggplant and heart emoticons, and some cringe-worthy dick pics, which have probably been around the block a few times.

So the real “winners” in the new landscape of internet dating seem to be the top 10-20% of physically attractive men – who get to basically fulfill their wildest fantasies every night. And the top 60% of physically attractive women who can control what they want to get out of the experience, as long as they don’t desire a top 10% guy. Or, if they do demand that level of physical perfection, they should only be seeking sex out of the relationship. I also think the bottom 40% of women will suffer the same frustration and rejection that the bottom 80% of men do, but we are talking about a much smaller number of frustrated women on these dating websites vs. the staggering number of men.

Sad but true.

Market value.

Obviously, there is a lot of generalizing going on in many of these previous statements. I’m sure there will be plenty of average looking guys who can get dates they might not have gotten without going online. I’m also sure there will be connections and companionships sprouting into existence that could have never happened without or Plenty of Fish. My guess is that over time, the evolution of dating in the post-Tinder world will eventually make it easier for everyone to find a partner. Those average and below-average looking guys will either lower their expectations over time, or a new app will find a way for them to demonstrate their value outside of physical prowess.  Looks will still matter, but take a backseat to other traits more conducive to long-term fulfillment and happiness.  How long will it take to create an environment where people can efficiently find a mate to increase their happiness? It’s hard to say, but as a technologically advanced society, we have gotten faster at reaching max efficiency, where it takes years instead of eons for life to uh …. find a way.

– JA