Intelligence, not good looks, is the most important detail in the dating world

If you're single, and er, looking to mingle, it's likely you've dipped your toe into the world of dating apps.

For those on the shy side, it can seem like a great way to make a move without the fear of real-life rejection.

But while you're Bumbling, Tindering or whatever-ing your way through the dating maze, it's hard not to succumb to thinking the whole online shebang is about looks, and little else.

Right here, right now

Granted, attraction has always been part of sparking up a romance. But is online dating making us more superficial?

Relationship expert and author Katia Loisel we've become a society addicted to instant gratification, and dating apps feed into that.

"A lot of single people that we've spoken to and interviewed about the dating apps, say 'I do it when I'm bored, I do it in bed. It's like a game'," says Loisel.

Strolling, scrolling

While some people might genuinely log on to find love, the nature of dating apps mean that many of us become disconnected, forgetting why we joined in the first place, she says.

"It does become about looks because it's very quick. People are swiping and they're not even taking time to read the profiles a lot of the time."

Going on that theory, you might assume that the undisputed hotties out there are the only ones enjoying the online dating experience. However, love – at least the long-term kind – is more complex than that, says Loisel.


Your top traits

She was involved in a study of 1500 singles, which found that many factors ultimately rated higher in importance than appearance. Among them: personality, a sense of humour, cleanliness, and common interests. Our backgrounds, previous relationships and myriad other factors also come heavily into play – plus the simple fact that different people find different things attractive.

Most people aren't supermodels, and it's easy to wonder sometimes whether we're batting above our weight, says Loisel. However she suggests a confident approach that's also friendly and open.

"Rather than going out there worrying about 'oh my god, I don't have a six-pack, I'm not getting paid $100,000 a year'," she says. "At the end of the day that stuff only matters if you allow it to matter."

Sounds of silence

If you're not feeling very positive about yourself, that can also affect the way you treat someone you're actually interested in, says Loisel. She refers to this as "non-verbal leakage".

"If you're feeling like they're not going to like you, then you're not going to be open and warm and loving with them. So of course they're not going to like you as much, because you're coming from a place of insecurity."

Dan Auerbach, relationship counsellor with Associated Counsellors and Psychologists Sydney, says people subconsciously search for many different things in a potential partner.

Clever features

Rather than looking for someone traditionally handsome, many people will be drawn to someone with an intelligent-looking face, for instance.

Generally, he says relationships tend to last when your partner can pick up your cues and respond to them.

"People become attractive to us in the longer term when they resonate with us emotionally. I think that ability to respond emotionally depends on our personality, and our emotional profile if you like."

Find your compliment

An attraction to someone's looks can also shift in an instant, according to the way they act, he notes: "It could change the moment someone moves their face and shows an expression that doesn't show what you're expecting or looking for."

Mostly, people just want someone who complements their personality, and can share their interests and understand their emotional needs, he says.

"There's a complement for everybody as long as you can get out of the way of your own terror and try to make a connection."

Get offline

For those who feel online dating apps are too superficial he suggests finding a different medium (online or in the real world) where you can express more of your personality. "Give people a chance to know you."

Psychotherapist Shane Warren says online dating apps have led to "a market where we're window-shopping before we're communicating with other people".

At least in a bar or nightclub situation, you can generally gauge how someone interacts with their friends, he says.

However Warren believes many people are shifting away from dating apps and back towards more old school approaches, which could include joining a single's tennis event or even a sailing club. "These activities or these events are about socially engaging with people. It's not necessarily about finding the one."

Not just a pretty face

If you're worried about your looks, spare a genuine thought for those who are naturally blessed in that department.

Warren says exceptionally good-looking people tend to be viewed solely as "eye candy," which can be a legitimate frustration in itself.

"They might dismiss the fact you have a PhD and are super bloody intelligent," he says.