How To Rock The Online Dating World: An Interview With Dr Martin Graff

From creating the perfect profile to writing that first daunting message, the world of online dating can feel tough. But with half of relationships now starting online, we sat down with Dr Martin Graff to discuss how you can make simple changes and get people swiping right.

Dr. Graff, what brought about your interest in online dating?

In psychology, even as an undergraduate student, I have always been interested in how people interact romantically.

I later developed an interest in how people use the internet, and so the two things seemed to go together and combined into an interest in online relationships and dating.

Does online dating actually work for most people?

Yes the research now suggests that online dating is the most effective way to meet people for a romantic relationship.

About twice as many people meet through online dating compared to any other method of meeting.

What are the steps an individual can take to make the best of online dating?

If you are serious about online dating, then it pays to just take a little time to think about your online dating profile and what you will say in this and what pictures you will use.

Maybe consult a close friend who can give you their opinion on what to say about yourself and which photos you should use in your profile.

Be honest and acknowledge to yourself that it may take a little effort to get it right. But that’s surely the same for everything?

How do the dating profiles of men differ from women?

They are different in lots of ways, but fundamentally they differ in terms of how men and women advertise themselves to the opposite sex.

For instance, men tend to emphasise power or status or the ability to earn money.

Women tend to emphasise their looks more than men.  These differences reflect what men and women may be looking for in a relationship.


Finding The ‘One’

What are the indicators that one’s online dating will actually work towards a lasting relationship?

One simple indication might be the type of dating site or app a person is using. Some sites emphasise their focus on long term relationships more than others. Furthermore, it could be to do with what people say they are seeking from their dating.

Use of words like ‘relationship’, for example, could also be a good indication that they may be looking for a long-term commitment.

Computer keyboard key with find love
Computer keyboard key with find love

What are the problems associated with online dating?

People may have high expectations of online dating, so should be mindful that it sometimes might take time to get things right or to meet the right person. People should realise that it can often take a little time to find the right person.

Another problem may be that, sometimes, people misrepresent themselves and are not entirely truthful in their dating profiles. For example, stating that they are younger than they actually are.

If you want to eventually meet someone ‘in person’ then it is surely best to be honest at the start.

It has been said that communication for a major part is without words. Please tell us about your observations on how non-verbal behaviour works when dating online.

In online dating, that is before people have actually met face-to-face, then the online communication between them is through some kind of messaging system. Research has shown that those who use more emojis tend to be more successful in online dating.

Also, asking questions of the other person is an obvious way to elicit a response. Maybe find something that they have shared in their profile description to start an online conversation.


Selling Your Strengths

What is it about a man’s voice that is so important in dating?

A man’s voice can be important in the dating process, specifically seduction requires flexible use of a man’s voice and adapting it according to the interaction. Men who use a voice characterised by strength and clarity tend to be more successful.

This has been called vocal exhibition where males attempt to portray themselves in an attractive light. Later in the interaction, males who are successful tend to change their voices to become lower in volume and pitch in order to demonstrate tenderness and affability, indicating a more intimate and relaxed situation.

This is referred to as a self-disclosure voice.

What about his intellect and perhaps even looks?

These are obviously both important. Men who are intelligent and handsome are indicating that they have good genes to pass on to any children they may have. Children who have genes for intellect and strength, will obviously have an advantage over their peers.

Similarly, what are the most important attributes in a woman with reference to dating?

As evolutionary psychology tells us, it is women who possess beauty and therefore an indication of the ability to have children who are seen as most desirable by men.  Therefore, women who accentuate their looks over their intellect or strength are seen as more attractive.

What is the role of social media in relationships?

Dr Martin Graff - presentation
Dr Martin Graff – presentation

This is a vast area. There is a lot of research now emerging on the role of social media in relationships.

Social media has the potential to make us more visible to other people than we ever were before. However, social media also portrays us in a far more ambiguous way to others.

People can announce their relationship status on social media and communicate this to the world in a way they could not do previously.

When relationships break down, it can also be the case that social media may hinder the breakup process, with people constantly seeing what their ex-partners may be doing.


Cheating Online

What is online infidelity?

Infidelity in a relationship may be defined as acting in a way not sanctioned by your partner. Typically, this may involve having physical contact with someone outside of your relationship.

Online this obviously cannot happen, so online infidelity is more to do with being emotionally close to someone outside your relationship.

Do both men and women indulge in it?

Yes they do.  I don’t think there is any specific evidence that this is engaged in by just men or just women.

Are they in an extreme minority, those who do not cheat? Are humans really born to be monogamous?

Not really. There have been various studies on infidelity in relationships over the years, but the estimate is that about half of people have reported engaging in infidelity.

The internet now makes this a whole lot easier too, because of the availability of others willing to behave in this way too.

What does sexting say about a person?

Research has found that the way in which people send sext messages is to some extent related to their attachment styles.

For instance, those with avoidant attachment styles (find it difficult to get close to others) may rely on sexting to convey their feelings of closeness more.


Social Media

What are the benefits to using social media, in general?

Despite some of the bad press which social media might have received in terms of spreading false information or enticing people to make comparisons with others, there are also many advantages associated with this also.

For example, it allows people to communicate and stay in touch with others, and also may contact people thus giving them a sense of community.

And what are the drawbacks?

There may be drawbacks, the most important of which may be that people may be making social comparisons with others on social media (where others have travelled, what others are doing), which may leave them feeling inadequate.

Our readers are mainly young people from different parts of the world. A word of advice for them?

In dating as in life, always try to follow your dreams. If you don’t then you may end up regretting.  Don’t forget, you only live once.

Dr Martin Graff
Dr Martin Graff

Dr Martin Graff is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Wales. His main research interests are the psychology of online romantic relationships and social media. He is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist and has worked as a visiting scholar at the State University of New York, Cortland, USA and Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

He has been invited to speak at numerous public engagement events in the UK, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.




Photos: From the archive of Dr Martin Graff / Shutterstock

Want to learn from another one of our expert interviews? Why not try this one:

Is Instagram Inherently Self-Objectifying?: An Interview with Dr. Tiggemann

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