Dr. Helen Fisher & Love in the Digital Age

love in the digital age

Each day another couple meets online. What we once dubbed a last resort for divorcees and middle-aged bachelors is now used by individuals of all ages. Dr. Helen Fisher, Match.com’s chief scientific advisor, has extensively studied relationships, and the formation of love in the digital age.

Dr. Helen Fisher

Dedicating her entire life’s work to the science of love, Fisher has published countless books and research papers on the topic.

Since 2005, Fisher has worked alongside match.com, assisting in research that created their hormone and personality based compatibility algorithms.

She has also attended countless TED talks, presenting her groundbreaking research and theories regarding all aspects of love.

Read more on Fisher’s research and work on her website.

The Science of Love

Dr. Fisher’s research on love is oddly soothing, as you know some of the irrationality felt when you have a crush is nothing but your brain at work. These feelings occur within everyone, we simply don’t discuss them as often as we should.

Fisher detailed three “systems” for mating and reproduction: lust, attraction, and attachment. Any of these feelings can develop into what we recognize as love. The way you fall in love can vary between these three instances, but begin with one of them.

She’s also explains that sleeping with someone blurs the lines between love and lust when your brain releases dopamine and creates the sensation of love. The hallmark of being in love is what Fisher describes as, “someone camping in your head.” All of your thoughts bring you back to them.

This obsession is present across cultures and time periods. Fisher details that the sensation of love exists as a primal drive to mate. However, the way individuals go about this sensation does differ between genders.

Through brain-scans, Fisher discovered that males “showed more activity in a brain region associated with the integration of visual stimuli.” Whereas women displayed higher activity in regions associated with memory recall.

While love has strongly grasped humans for countless generations, the ways in which we find romantic partners has vastly evolved from survival of the fittest to complex technological algorithms.

Behind Dating Apps and Sites

Fisher designed Match.com’s personality quiz on Chemistry.com to match individuals with their ideal partners.

The test evaluates traits based upon four biological systems she labels: explorer, builder, director, and negotiator.

Explorers are curious, creative, spontaneous, energetic, and enthusiastic. Whereas builders adhere more to rules, respect authority, and thrive within schedules. Directors exhibit the most analytical traits and negotiators display people skills and empathy.

Fisher’s test even predicts the hormone most heavily secreted by each. Explorers release dopamine, builders are associated with serotonin, directors linked with testosterone, and negotiators exhibit links to the estrogen system.

You can take the personality test yourself here.

While Match.com carefully executes science-backed approaches in their determination of compatibility, apps like Tinder and Bumble are less methodical. The ease with which we can seek out, and meet with, other singles is one of the reasons millennials exhibit what Fisher labels, “slow love.”

“Slow Love”

If you’ve ever ventured onto any of the dating apps, you’ve encountered the immediate overwhelm. It’s mind-boggling realizing there are this many people looking for companionship in one way or another.

This plethora of choice Fisher compares with the age-old paradox of choice. It wasn’t until recently we found ourselves choosing between thousands of people. She even states that, “[we] can embrace five to nine alternatives, and after that, [we] get into…’cognitive overload,’ and [we] don’t choose any.”

Our response to this overload creates the sensation of “slow love.” In short, millennials often choose to sleep with potential partners before becoming exclusive and live together long-term prior to marriage. Fisher claims what some may perceive as recklessness is actually caution.

Millennials deeply fear divorce. Fisher’s research indicated that “67 percent of singles in America today who are living long-term with somebody, have not married yet because they are terrified of divorce.” They’ve witnessed, through their parents, the repercussions ranging from emotional to legal and economic trauma.

Even with new technology and the surge of slow love, Fisher insists love is here to stay. Regardless of the choice-overload and rise in flings between the sheets, humans always have and will intrinsically desire love and settling down.