Dr. Liesel Sharabi: The Enduring Effect of Internet Dating, Meeting Online and the Road to Marriage

By Mia Quezada and Angela Vargas


We had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Liesel Sharabi via Zoom on her studies regarding the effect online dating has on long term relationships, specifically marriage. Her research, “The Enduring Effect of Internet Dating: Meeting Online and the Road to Marriage,” focuses on qualitative data from 50 individuals who were engaged or married to someone they met through the internet or online dating applications. 

Dr. Sharabi is an assistant professor and director of Relationships and Technology Lab at Arizona State University. Her work focuses on interpersonal relationships and how they intersect with communications technology. She received her Masters at the University of New Mexico and her PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

The effects of internet dating on long term relationships sought to answer two questions; “What stages characterize the development of online relationships to marriage,” and “What are the long-term outcomes of the stages of development in online dating for relationships?” 

During our discussion, we were able to ask Dr. Sharabi about her research methods and limitations by asking the following questions:

Read more: Dr. Liesel Sharabi: The Enduring Effect of Internet Dating, Meeting Online and the Road to Marriage

What made you interested in conducting a study on this topic?

Dr. Sharabi describes her college years, as a millennial she experienced Myspace and Facebook as the dominating social media platforms. “Everything we did was very much shaped by this emerging social media ecosystem.” At the time, there was a lot of stigma regarding online dating and it was during her graduate years, she saw many of her friends turn to online dating applications. Considering her friends, Dr. Sharabi understood that online dating wasn’t a result of social incompetence but rather a tool used to navigate the social networks within their reach. 

Were there any related ideas that just didn’t pan out?

Dr. Sharabi describes how while doing her thesis for her Masters, she was interested in how people can go from talking online to eventually meeting in person in the context of social media. She distinguishes those who use social media and the internet as a tool to make friends, from those who use it to go on dates and get to know people in a romantic sense. She claims how, “originally a lot of my research centered around social media and eventually pivoted to focus more specifically on online dating.” While both social media and online dating are similar topics, Sharabi ultimately decided there wasn’t enough research on the effects of online dating as a whole—and wanted to change that.

How did you prepare for your research study?

As a social scientist, Dr. Liesel Sharabi focuses on quantitative data for her research. She states, “I collect large samples and use statistics to draw inferences that I hope generalize to bigger populations.” Much of her research is a result of an interest in wanting to predict people’s behavior, and the research of John Gottman who researched marriage, using conversations between couples on conflict topics to predict divorce with 90% accuracy. To make these types of predictions, Sharabi utilizes quantitative data research and depending on the questions being asked, qualitative methods.

What was the most shocking or interesting thing to come out of your research in your opinion?

While studying those in long-term relationships who met via online dating, Dr. Sharabi was very surprised about how many said they don’t tell people how they met despite being in a serious relationship and even engaged or married. She explains how by studying it for so long, she forgot about the “stigma” that can surround these dating apps—being seen as just for hook-ups—when in reality some people meet their life long partner via online dating.

If we conducted a study on this topic, would you recommend us following your method of collecting data?

Dr. Sharabi recommends before conducting further research, to consider the question being asked. While Dr. Sharabi mainly focuses on quantitative research, the question regarding the effects of online dating on longterm relationships seeks a different type of answer. In her research she asked 50 individuals questions with qualitative answers via phone call, with this method she was then able to analyze her date to reach her conclusion. Mainly, Dr. Sharabi encourages us to use the question of  your study to guide you to the research method needed to answer.

What problems or limitations did you encounter in your study?

One big challenge Dr. Sharabi faced throughout her longitudinal research on first dates that came out of dating apps was, “finding people who met on a dating app then went on to meet a new person.” While dating apps are good to get to know someone else, there are hundreds if not thousands of other people using these apps as well so the chances of people talking once and deciding to go on a date without the distraction of anyone else was difficult to come around enough to notice a pattern.

If you could redo this study again, what would you change?

There is always room for improvement, through each research study, you go through the trial and error of your methods, often rethinking different ways to collect data and which mediums. It is through Dr. Sharabi’s experience, that she gained an awareness of things she could have done better, but this only helped her redesign future research studies. She informs that she is “constantly changing” the ways she conducts her research as a result of any recent study she has completed. 

Dr. Liesel Sharabi closed off with advice to help us further our own studies while in undergraduate school.

Ultimately, Dr Sharabi was able to uncover throughout her research that while online dating relationships develop similarly to one’s met face to face, they do not progress the same. With online dating you are able to seek information on potential partners before initiating contact, while diminishing distance barriers as opposed to meeting someone knowing little to nothing about them previously. In the end, online dating created a downstream effect on participants’ relationships allowing for a stronger foundation of intimacy, no shared past or network, and overall better mate choices. We thank her for being so kind as to sharing the ins and outs of her research so openly with us and doing our interview on a short notice.

Graph illustrating some online dating statistics (2021/2022) via Sasi George

Interview with Dr. Liesel Sharabi via Zoom

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