(Match.com)

If you resolved to find love in 2015, I have a bit of bad news for you: Your window of opportunity may be a whole lot smaller than you think.

According to forecasts from Match.com and Plenty of Fish, two of the country’s largest dating sites, the single most popular time for online dating — the window when the most people sign up, log on and poke around — will be Jan. 4, from roughly 5 to 8 p.m. Zoosk, another data-focused dating site, backs that estimate up; in 2014, it’s most trafficked time was on the Sunday after New Year’s.

In terms of the number of fish in the sea, it’s all downhill from there.

I exaggerate a bit, of course: Match has 2.4 million North American users and Plenty of Fish has 90 million worldwide; by all accounts, you can find a date — if not a particularly good one — on either site, at any time of the year. But there’s no denying the dramatic, slightly heartstring-tugging seasonality in online dating. Across the board, dating sites see way more action between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day than they do any other time of the year.

In other words, millions of people contemplating their return to work on Sunday, hanging out with their cats or their parents or their platonic roommates, will despair and decide to “try out” online dating, after all.

And when Feb. 14 passes without utter disaster, millions of people will give up on love/Internet dating. It’s all overrated, anyway. (Sniff.)

Interestingly, this cycle doesn’t just play out on dating sites — in fact, it’s far broader than that. Researchers have also observed a post-holiday spike in searches for porn, for instance, and a 2012 study by Facebook’s data team found that people are far more likely to change their relationship status in January or February than they are at any other time of year. Offline, the holiday season tends to see a jump in both condom sales and conceptions.


Changes in Facebook relationship status by month. Particularly in the key 25 to 44-year-old age group, January and February are the times to get together. (Facebook)

Some of this has to do with the dreariness of the winter months, researchers think: We just have a whole lot of time after the holidays to mess around on the computer.

But there might be something a bit more profound going on here, too. Christmas, for many, is the loneliest season; the change of year is a chance for a new start.

“Christmas tends to be a period of review and revision,” the psychotherapist Phillip Hodson once said. “It is also the winter pause when you review what has been missing in your life and what you want in it … Many sense they want a crack at feeling better than they did in the preceding 12 months.”