What Are Online Daters Really Looking For? Reality, Not Perfection, Says Study

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As online dating becomes more and more popular, researchers are becoming interested in finding out the deets of the business: Which online dating apps people are using more, which demographic is more likely to online date, how many people who meet online end up getting married, and more. In a new study done at the University of Iowa, researchers found that online daters are looking for someone "real" with whom to create a partnership — not someone who looks "flashy" or seems perfect. Talk about loving someone warts and all, right?

Andy High, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa and a co-author of the study, explained in a release that we tend to contact people online who appear to be accurate about what they're saying saying about themselves — meaning, we want the information presented to be positive, but also realistic. He said, "It's tough when it comes to dating profiles because we want someone who seems like an amazing person, but we also hopefully will have a relationship with this individual, so we want them to exist." We don't like dating people who aren't what they say they are.

So what does a successful online dating relationship look like? Here are some features the researchers found to be useful and generally well-received by people who are looking to find that special someone online:

1. A successful profile is detailed and specific, not full of broad generalities.

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Work for a magazine? Write which magazine and your position. Work for a consulting firm? Talk about where it is and why you like your job (or don't like your job). Live in Massachusetts? Specify Boston, or Cambridge, or Wellesley. According to the research, this helps people viewing the profile verify that you're actually a real person with a real life and real interests, which tends to be a more tempting prospect than someone who lists a ton of arbitrary facts that could be true about anyone.

2. Embellishing, lying, and exaggerating about who you are isn't actually going to help you.

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We've all been taught that it's sort of OK to embellish your resume or LinkedIn profile, but that doesn't really work for online dating. To test this, researchers created eight fake online dating profiles consisting of four women and four men and showed them to 317 adults (with a mean age of 40). As it turns out, people were turned off by profiles that seemed too good to be true. Since most people are aware how easy it is to fabricate facts on an online dating profile and can recognize when something looks fake, they're more likely to shy away from a profile that seems like it won't produce a real, genuine person.

3. Be humble and realistic.

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As High phrases it, "It's important to put your best foot forward, but maybe not in your best pair of shoes." Truth.

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