Why You're So Picky About Dating

You have a right to be choosy!
PHOTO: Clueless/Paramount Pictures

If you're someone who uses dating apps, then you're probably all too familiar with nonstop-swiping left and ignoring lackluster "hey's" from aggressively-boring matches. Apps promise to pair you up perfectly, but when no one thrilling pops up, it can start to wear you down.

You don't FEEL like a ruthlessly judgmental or nitpicky person in any other aspect of your life, so why does dating bring out your harshest inner critic? Why are you like this???

Turns out, there are lots of reasons, ranging from biological to technological to the fact that Men Are Just Plain Bad Sometimes. Here are a few possible explanations for why you feel so choosy:

  1. The more choices you have, the pickier you get.

    According to a 2009 study, people, regardless of gender, became more selective when they were the ones being pursued. However, due to a combination of societal norms (men feeling like they should always send the first message) and pure male-to-female ratios (depending on where you live and what app you use), women sometimes have way more physical options.

    Dr. Catalina Toma, Associate Professor of Communication Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that according to her 2016 study on choice overload, there IS a thing as too many options. Here's how she knows: participants in her study were each given the same six matches to choose from, but some were also given an additional 18 matches. It turns out, having more matches isn't necessarily a positive.

    "We found, quite contrary to popular belief, that the people with more options were less satisfied with whoever they chose than the people who had fewer options," says Dr. Toma. "When you have a lot of choice, it can work against you. It can provoke a lot of regret or a 'grass is always greener' mentality."

  2. Also, a lot of your "options" ARE probably duds.

    Yes, your Bumble nbox could be filled to the brim with messages, but are they actually even base-level decent matches? "[With apps], it seems like you have a lot of options, but you don't know if those are real options, or who those people are or how interested they are in dating," says Dr. Toma.

    With online dating, while it may visually seem like you have a ton of options, you still haven't actually met them or know if you'll have any chemistry or not. So in that case, it's normal (and good!) to be picky.

  3. From an evolutionary standpoint, women might be pickier for a reason.

    Dr. Toma prefaces that evolutionary mate selection should be taken with a grain of salt since a LOT has changed since evolutionary times, but the biological core of partner selectivity could have to do with procreation.

    The theory goes something like this: "Carrying a child is a way greater investment for women than it is for men," says Toma. "For men, if the goal is spreading their genes, the tactic that makes the most sense is to be with as many women as possible. Whereas for women, they want someone around to support and protect them during childbirth and child-raising, all these difficult times.

    Modern society and technology negate a lot of this nowadays, and you may already know you never want kids to begin with. But then again, you not trusting the guy shooting his 2 a.m. "wyd" shot isn't too far off from this theory.

  4. You might be building up really high expectations.

    With online dating, the entire point is for you to present yourself through the best lens possible (unless you're that one guy I swiped left on in 2015 whose main pic was him in his underwear, presumably covered in his own blood, thumbs-upping the camera from a hospital bed. You do you, sir). When everyone is curating the perfect profile, it's easy to get high hopes for your first date.

    "Research shows that you should meet someone within a week or so," says Dr. Toma. "Any more time [you] spend online, there's just not a lot of information that you have, or the information that you have is highly selective, [so] you develop these high expectations of what that person will be like. And that's likely to result in disappointment when you're confronted with the person face-to-face."

  5. You could be fixated on qualities that don't actually matter.

    On the flip-side, because you know everyone's putting their best foot forward, you could be inclined to do a little extra digging on your own. "In the modern tell-all social media age, people who are picky have a plethora of information they can use to screen [others]," says says Dr. Wendy L. Patrick, author of Red Flags: Frenemies, Underminers, and Ruthless People. Although no amount of funny or unfunny old tweets can guarantee that a person is a great partner, it can feel like this information spared you a bad date (and often, it does).

    However, there are things that just don't matter in the grand scheme of things. A person's very different Netflix tastes or absence of hiking Instas when you live for the outdoors doesn't necessarily mean you know the full picture OR should rule them out immediately—and a person who fully matches your hobbies could, conversely, still be a prick.

    Dr. Patrick suggests bouncing off your dating opinions off of people you trust. "Family and friends are great reality checks. Use them as objective sounding boards for issues in general—not to reveal confidential information or partner secrets, but to vet your ideas and feelings about what is and is not important in a relationship."

  6. You secretly might not want to date at all right now.

    Last but not least, your pickiness could deep down just mean You're Just Not That Into Dating. "There’s a lot of pressure, societally, to be dating," says Dr. Toma. "Maybe you’re not ready, emotionally. So you go online to make yourself feel like you’re actually doing it but you’re not really doing it."

    If you find yourself re-downloading apps, only getting a few matches, and then bailing every time you actually set up plans for a date, it could just be that you're actually loving the single life and just finding tiny excuses to not meet up.

    Using an app can feel like a huge checkmark on the "See? I'm putting myself out there!" list. And, let's be honest, passing quick judgments on strangers and sending the most tragic screenshots to the group chat is objectively fun. You just have to be honest if you want anything more than that.

Follow Julia on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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