Much more could be said about the hidden costs of low-friction dating markets, but I think the general point can be boiled down to a basic point about the paradox of plenty: We often make our greatest discoveries and acquire our greatest treasures when local scarcity compels us to be open to new and better things.
The search process has for all practical purposes become frictionless, and the net result is that it just isn't fun anymore. Finding a partner used to be expensive, and the market was inefficient.
If you lived in a large city, there were always people looking for partners, but the problem was how to find them.
It is a deep dark secret of mine that I used to be a philatelist—yes, you can denigrate that fine hobby by calling it stamp collecting if you wish.
I collected certain kinds of 19th-century postal history (mailed envelopes) and I used to enjoy travelling from dealer to dealer digging through bins of musty postal history looking for the items that I collected. Collecting postal history has gone from a labor of seeking out interesting shops and sales and digging through musty boxes to one of logging on to e Bay, typing in a search request (19th-century postal history), and clicking on whatever envelope covers catch my eye. Now I realize that the economic language of frictionless markets isn't very romantic, but the fact is that the dating game is a kind of market whether we want to admit it or not.
Online dating markets are so low-friction that between-relationship dry periods can quickly evaporate.
But while online dating minimizes the heartache periods, minimizing those periods really doesn't do us any favors—we are losing periods of reflection when we might be thinking about what we did right and wrong, how we can improve as individuals, and what we might be open to next time.
First, if it is too easy to find something you just don't value it as much.
If diamonds grew on dandelions no one would care about diamonds.
Much of what is valuable in this world is the product of mashing up ideas or music or personalities that are on the face of it incompatible.