Researchers recently published a book-length article in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest on the scientific flaws of online dating. They wrote a layperson’s summary for Scientific American, but even that was three pages long (practically an eternity in internet time). So here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:
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.
It seems like just yesterday the two of us were out on the fire escape of the Nerve.com office, smoking (smoking!) and coming up with the profile questions for the original Nerve Personals (you may remember “______ is sexy; ______ is sexier”). The Nerve Personals had a meteoric rise, signing up affiliate partners like Salon and The Onion left and right. It was so successful, it spun itself off into a purely personals company called Spring Street Networks. But what goes up must come down: the personals network was eventually sold to Friend Finder long after we’d gone and the whole thing just seemed to fizzle out, at least on Nerve’s end.