“Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because the right books are found only by accident.”
— Rufus Griscom Wired Magazine, 2002
The modern era of digital courtship allows everyone seeking love to sift through an infinite stream of potential suitors. But are more options always better? And what does that mean when it comes time to choose just one lifelong partner? That was always the point, right? To find enduring love; a soulmate?
Have you ever seen a child selecting a flavor at Baskin Robbins? Deciding between 31 different ice-cream flavors as a child is a special form of torture. Choosing chocolate over vanilla is a rather simple decision. But increasing the available options also increases the fear of missing out (FOMO), which makes that final decision an excruciating endeavor.
A study in 1995 conducted at a California grocery store attempted to quantify our inability to choose when the pool of choice is increased. The researcher handed out coupons for heavily discounted jam at an endcap kiosk but rotated the amount of presented jams each hour. One hour, a passerby could select from six jams, the next hour that number increased to 24.
The larger assortment of jams attracted more attention, a total of 60 percent of customers were drawn to the display. When the display dropped to just six jams, attention dropped to 40 percent.
But attention alone is not entirely a statement of choice.