If You’re Dating Online, You’re Dating Out Of Your League

If you’re looking for love online—and really, who isn’t these days?—then there’s probably a pattern in the people you gravitate towards that you’re not even aware of. Sure, you probably know you go for guys who are athletic or avoid grown men whose profiles still reminisce on their frat days, but there’s a larger overall trend in our online dating habits that’s a bit shocking. According to a new study, we tend to go for people who are exactly 25% more desirable than we are.

The study out of the University of Michigan, published this month in Science Advances, studied messages between 186,000 members of a popular, free online dating site (which remains unnamed) in four major US cities: Boston, New York, Seattle, and Chicago. While the control group could be seen as somewhat small given how big the country is, the study’s findings are certainly thought-provoking.

Sociology professor (and study co-author) Elizabeth Bruch says that the findings are clear: “Three-quarters, or more, of people are dating aspirationally.” This was determined based on a “desirability score” given to study participants by researchers, who ranked users by two factors: whether other desirable people contacted you and whether they responded when you reached out to them. From there, Bruch was able to determine that not only are there dating “leagues,” as much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, but that we generally don’t stick to our own when looking for love online.

As for the success rate of this kind of aspirational dating, Bruch told The Atlantic that while the response rate to most messages tends to be less than 10%, “persistence pays off,” especially for those who are willing to send out many messages and continue the frustrating search for love. The takeaway? Don’t give up on your dreams—maybe your own Prince Charming really is out there.

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