Hot Dates: Help from an OKCupid Guru

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In the third installment of our series Hot Dates, we check in with Louis, who’s trying to date in D.C. and frustrated by how it’s going. It’s still hard—so we asked Tobin Low, cohost of the WNYC Studios podcast Nancy, to weigh in with some advice from his own time on OKCupid.

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The Weaknesses of Online Dating

Cable USB in form of heart

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Matthew Kassel’s New York Observer piece about his frustrations with online dating is sad, endearing, and very good. In short, he argues that OKCupid, Tinder, and their ilk encourage an endless series of first dates that don’t really go anywhere. His complaint has merit that extends beyond his own experiences: Researchers generally think that online matchmaking algorithms do a poor job of determining who will be a compatible long-term pair.

[M]any aspects of online dating do not appear to improve romantic outcomes and might even undermine them. For example, the widespread emphasis on profiles as the first introduction to potential partners seems unfortunate in light of the disconnect between what people find attractive in a profile versus what they find attractive when meeting another person face-to-face, a problem exacerbated by comparing multiple profiles side-by-side. In addition, browsing many profiles fosters judgmental, assessment-oriented evaluations and can cognitively overwhelm users, two processes that can ultimately undermine romantic outcomes. Furthermore, it seems that the CMC [computer mediated communication — that is, messaging] available through online dating sites only increases attraction toward a potential partner if the duration of CMC is brief (a few weeks or less), and it can potentially undermine attraction if it yields unrealistic or overly particular expectations that will be disconfirmed upon a face-to-face meeting. Finally, despite grand claims to the contrary, it is unlikely that any matching algorithm based upon data collected before people have encountered each other can be effective at identifying partners who are compatible for a long-term relationship.

Make Me a Match: Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm

Christian Rudder

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If the Internet is one giant experiment, are we all just lab rats? “I prefer the analogy of a glass-bottomed boat,” Rudder said. He derived the word “dataclysm” from the Greek word kataklysmos, for the Great Flood. He’d like for this current inundation, like Noah’s, to be thought of not just as an agent of destruction, “an unprecedented deluge,” but as a means of renewal, one that will wash away our old limited understanding of how people actually think and behave. The power of suggestion is strong. Dinner and a movie?