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What The Economist doesn't get about online dating

A recent article in The Economist magazine examines a bunch of scientific papers about online dating in an attempt to figure out if any of those fancy matching algorithms are better than old-fashioned matchmakers like your grandmother. Or even if simply all that choice — and all those checkboxes! — improves your odds of finding love. Turns out there’s very little data to support either theory — and what data there is (hi, Malcolm Gladwell) suggests that too much choice means people (a) make bad decisions and (b) feel less satisfied with their ultimate choice. Oh, yeah, and related research shows that, yes, people with similar personalities tend to have happier relationships — but by the not-exactly-earthshaking margin of 0.5%. In other words, if you want to have a 0.5% better shot at happiness, make sure you go online to find someone who checks all the same boxes as you.

All of which leads The Economist to conclude that “love is as hard to find on the internet as elsewhere. That is not a reason not to use it. But you may be just as likely to luck out in the local café, or by acting on the impulse to stop and talk to that stranger on the street whose glance you caught, as you are by clicking away with a mouse and hoping that, one day, Cupid’s arrow will strike.”

Well, yeah. As we’ve always said, online dating is a numbers game. But what the math nerds at The Economist seem to have missed is that “acting on the impulse to stop and talk to that stranger on the street” is nothing like clicking on someone’s profile and sending them a quick message. One is utterly terrifying and takes massive balls/labes in the face of possible public rejection. The other is — well, it’s sending an email. In other words, totally not terrifying and requiring neither balls nor labes of particularly large dimension.

If dating is a numbers game wherever you play it, it stands to reason that you’d rack up those numbers faster if the process isn’t utterly terrifying. We may not be math nerds, but we’re calling this one in favor of the internet dating sites (we only wish they were paying us to say that).


photo via flickr