06/09/2014 12:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fugitive from the Online Dating Site

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Finding the love of our lives is not simple. US Marshals arguably have greater success tracking down fugitives than some singles have finding a romantic partner online. Amy Webb, however, may be the Wyatt Earp of online dating. Armed with excel spreadsheets rather than automatic weapons, Webb developed a multitier point system to find her perfect match on JDate. While Webb may have found love through assigning points to the criteria she found to be critical in a prospective partner, Webb may be the exception rather than the rule for online dating success.

Context matters when hunting down a potential romantic partner. The third parties and institutions that traditionally facilitated romantic introductions, such as religious and educational institutions, no longer may be as dominant as they once were. Online dating sites, however, have helped to fill this gap in facilitating romantic partnerships. Unlike religious and educational institutions that are primarily comprised of individuals from similar backgrounds, online dating sites afford people the ability to meet individuals who are very different from themselves demographically, including potential fugitives if they use

At the same time, online dating sites may be used to reproduce social boundaries. Although my research suggests that the most common reason individuals provide for using online dating sites is to expand the pool of prospective romantic partners, many individuals like Amy Webb use or have used online dating sites to find their preconceived ideal partner. Online dating sites provide individuals with the ability to designate exact specifications for their prospective romantic partners, including but not limited to height, body type, eye color, and educational background. Through instituting such strict parameters, individuals are limiting themselves to a potentially small pool of partners and imposing a structure, which they had used an online dating site to theoretically remove.

The parameters used to search for prospective partners may also not be rational. While my research suggests that individuals on online dating sites do sort themselves along traditional demographic lines and even are comparable in terms of physical attractiveness, the criteria used to inform their choices may not necessarily be completely rational for establishing romantic compatibility. For example, Webb had several reasonable criteria, such as shared religious values, but she also had a criterion that her romantic partner must always be 20 pounds heavier than her. Arguably, an arbitrary weight difference between partners is not critical for long-term success in marriage. Individuals should be judicious about the types of parameters they are imposing and really consider whether it really matters if their partner prefers an orange jumpsuit rather than stripes.

Individuals also may not have a clear idea of what they desire in potential partner. According to psychologists Paul Eastwick and Eli Finkel, individuals do not necessarily have the capacity for the introspection and awareness required to understand what draws them to prospective partners. Although Webb was able to prioritize and assign points to desired partner traits, many individuals most likely cannot articulate what exactly they are seeking in a prospective partner with accuracy.

The mechanisms used to glean information about prospective partners online are also relatively information thin. While you may be able to learn that someone's favorite television show is "Orange Is The New Black" and that you agree that Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" is the best song, an online dating profile cannot inform you about the intangible qualities that generate passion and compatibility. Individuals who dismiss prospective dates based upon relatively limited or unimportant information, such as their hobbies or favorite foods, may be closing the door on the love of their lives.

For online daters seeking love, caution should be taken when considering how strictly to set one's parameters. While Amy Webb is not on the FBI's Most Wanted list for hacking an online dating site and was very astute in her observations of JDate, her multitier system is not for everyone. Chemistry is more than between the sheets and, in most cases, not between the spreadsheets.

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