You’re at a party and you see someone cute across the room. They glance at you, maybe even smile for a second, then carry on with their conversation. You feel the room shrink, your heart rate quicken, your face go red: You’re crushing on this stranger, hard. But then the sensible part of your brain tells you to forget it: That person’s way, way out of your league.
Wait a second, you counter: Do dating “leagues” even exist?
At this point, Elizabeth Bruch, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, crashes in to your thought process (and this news article). Yep, she says. Leagues do seem to exist. But you’re not alone in trying to escape yours: “Three-quarters, or more, of people are dating aspirationally,” she says. And according to a new study, users of online-dating sites spend most of their time trying to contact people “out of their league.”
In fact, most online-dating users tend to message people exactly 25 percent more desirable than they are.
Bruch would know. She’s spent the past few years studying how people make decisions and pursue partners on online-dating sites, using exclusive data from the dating sites themselves. “There’s so much folk wisdom about dating and courtship, and very little scientific evidence,” she told me recently. “My research comes out of realizing that with these large-scale data sets, we can shed light on a lot of these old dating aphorisms.”