Online Dating: Are We Neglecting our Instincts?

When you meet in person, you can tell almost instantly tell if there is attraction, but online our senses are muted.

Have you ever chatted with someone through a dating app for weeks, only to meet up and have absolutely no chemistry? It feels like such a letdown and a huge waste of time, not to mention awkward. The good news is that you’re not alone. When you meet in person, you can tell almost instantly if you would work well together, but our instincts are muted online. Instead, we resort to screening profiles for red flags and swiping endlessly hoping for that one true connection. 

Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut — and the experts agree. 

An expert in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Stephanie Cacioppo, penned the lengthily-titled paper, Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence Toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. The title may be a mouthful, but the findings go down easy; you already know them by other names, such as feeling butterflies and “crushing on someone.” 

In an interview with BYRDIE, Cacioppo characterized that immediate “love at first sight” feeling as, “not only as a basic instinct and emotion but also a complex psychological-emotional mental state which involves four dimensions.” What are the four dimensions? 

  1. Chemistry; Neuropsychotherapist Dr. Trisha Stratford confirmed for The Huffington Post that there is a rush of chemicals in our brains when we first meet some that we are subconsciously attracted to. It can produce an incredibly joyful feeling due to the increase in dopamine and serotonin. 
  2. Cognition; The second aspect of this initial gut feeling is awareness. You’re aware of their gaze, you’re aware of how they smell, and of course, of your own feelings when you’re around this person. 
  3. Rewarding mechanisms; Then comes the third aspect: If you feel that chemical rush, you want to chase that feeling. The science is simple: you like them and want to be around them more. 
  4. Intending to be together; This is the hardest part. It’s easy enough to fall in love, once you meet the right person. On the other hand, staying in love requires growth, dedication, and working on your relationship together, but it’s worth it for a genuine partner. 

Neuroscientist Leigh Winters confirmed with BYRDIE that when you meet someone in person, you’re able to know right away if there’s a connection because your body will tell you. “It may sound counterintuitive, but finding someone attractive activates your stress response; your heart races, your mouth becomes dry, and you might start to sweat.” 

If this all sounds too scientific, there’s a simpler way to think about it; just trust your instincts. 

All in all, it becomes apparent that we can’t rely on our senses if we’re solely chatting with matches on dating apps and sites. If you have ever been all excited about an upcoming date with someone you’ve had a nice chat with online, just to realize that there’s no chemistry, just remember that the chances of actually having chemistry are somewhat slim. 

Our advice: If you’re meeting someone you’ve met online, try to consider it as meeting up with a platonic friend instead of your potential prince charming. During the date, if there’s chemistry, great! If not, enjoy your time anyway – but be sure that you’re not giving the wrong signals. 

Remember: It’s not you, it’s the entire system behind online dating and dating apps. 

Better yet: Try going through life with an open mind set. You can read our blog about how to meet people in real life here. When meeting someone in person, your senses will naturally do the work for you. 

Happy matching!

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