Thursday, July 7, 2011

The New Yorker on Online Dating

Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker: Looking for Someone

"Online dating sites, whatever their more mercenary motives, draw on the premise that there has got to be a better way. They approach the primeval mystery of human attraction with a systematic and almost Promethean hand. They rely on algorithms, those often proprietary mathematical equations and processes which make it possible to perform computational feats beyond the reach of the naked brain. Some add an extra layer of projection and interpretation; they adhere to a certain theory of compatibility, rooted in psychology or brain chemistry or genetic coding, or they define themselves by other, more readily obvious indicators of similitude, such as race, religion, sexual predilection, sense of humor, or musical taste. There are those which basically allow you to browse through profiles as you would boxes of cereal on a shelf in the store. Others choose for you; they bring five boxes of cereal to your door, ask you to select one, and then return to the warehouse with the four others. Or else they leave you with all five.  

"It is tempting to think of online dating as a sophisticated way to address the ancient and fundamental problem of sorting humans into pairs, except that the problem isn’t very old. Civilization, in its various guises, had it pretty much worked out. Society—family, tribe, caste, church, village, probate court—established and enforced its connubial protocols for the presumed good of everyone, except maybe for the couples themselves. The criteria for compatibility had little to do with mutual affection or a shared enthusiasm for spicy food and Fleetwood Mac. Happiness, self-fulfillment, “me time,” a woman’s needs: these didn’t rate. As for romantic love, it was an almost mutually exclusive category of human experience. As much as it may have evolved, in the human animal, as a motivation system for mate-finding, it was rarely given great consideration in the final reckoning of conjugal choice.


"The twentieth century reduced it all to smithereens. The Pill, women in the workforce, widespread deferment of marriage, rising divorce rates, gay rights—these set off a prolonged but erratic improvisation on a replacement. In a fractured and bewildered landscape of fern bars, ladies’ nights, Plato’s Retreat, “The Bachelor,” sexting, and the concept of the “cougar,” the Internet promised reconnection, profusion, and processing power.

"The obvious advantage of online dating is that it provides a wider pool of possibility and choice. In some respects, for the masses of grownups seeking mates, either for a night or for life, dating is an attempt to approximate the collegiate condition—that surfeit both of supply and demand, of information and authentication. A college campus is a habitat of abundance and access, with a fluid and fairly ruthless vetting apparatus. A city also has abundance and access, especially for the young, but as people pair off, and as they corral themselves, through profession, geography, and taste, into cliques and castes, the range of available mates shrinks. We run out of friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. You can get to thinking that the single ones are single for a reason.
...
"Match.com, one of the first Internet dating sites, went live in 1995. It is now the biggest dating site in the world and is itself the biggest aggregator of other dating sites; under the name Match, it owns thirty in all, and accounts for about a quarter of the revenues of its parent company, I.A.C., Barry Diller’s collection of media properties. In 2010, fee-based dating Web sites grossed over a billion dollars. According to a recent study commissioned by Match.com, online is now the third most common way for people to meet. (The most common are “through work/school” and “through friends/family.”) One in six new marriages is the result of meetings on Internet dating sites.

 ...
"There are thousands of dating sites; the big ones, such as Match.com and eHarmony (among the fee-based services) and PlentyOfFish and OK Cupid (among the free ones), hog most of the traffic. Pay sites make money through monthly subscriptions; you can’t send or receive a message without one. Free sites rely on advertising.
...
"I had a talk-about-dating date with a freelance researcher named Julia Kamin, who, over twelve years as a dater on various sites, has boiled down all the competing compatibility criteria to the question of, as she put it, “Are we laughing at the same shit?” This epiphany inspired her to build a site—makeeachotherlaugh.com—on which you rate cartoons and videos, and the algorithms match you up. As she has gone around telling people about her idea, she says, “women get instantly excited. Men are, like, ‘Um, O.K., maybe.’ ” It might be that women want to be amused while men want to be considered amusing. “I really should have two sites,” Kamin said. “Hemakesmelaugh.com and shelaughsatmyjokes.com.” (She bought both URLs.)

...
"The online dating sites are themselves a little like online-dating-site suitors. They want you. They exaggerate their height and salary. They hide their bald spots and back fat. Each has a distinct personality and a carefully curated profile—a look, a strong side, and, to borrow from TACT, a philosophy of life values. Nothing determines the atmosphere and experience of an Internet dating service more than the people who use it, but sometimes the sites reflect the personalities or predilections of their founders.


"OK Cupid, in its profile, comes across as the witty, literate geek-hipster, the math major with the Daft Punk vinyl collection and the mumblecore screenplay in development. Get to know it a little better and you’ll find that it contains multitudes—old folks, squares, more Jews than JDate, the polyamorous crowd. Dating sites have for the most part always had either a squalid or a chain-store ambience. OK Cupid, with a breezy, facetious tone, an intuitive approach, and proprietary matching stratagems, comes close to feeling like a contemporary Internet product, and a pastime for the young. By reputation, it’s where you go if you want to hook up, although perhaps not if you are, as the vulgate has it, “looking for someone”—the phrase that connotes a desire for commitment but a countervailing aversion to compromise. Owing to high traffic and a sprightly character, OK Cupid was also perhaps the most desirable eligible bachelor out there, until February, when it was bought, for fifty million dollars, by Match.

"OK Cupid’s founders, who have stayed on since the sale, are four math majors from Harvard.
...
"OK Cupid sends all your answers to its servers, which are housed on Broad Street in New York. The algorithms find the people out there whose answers best correspond to yours—how yours fit their desires and how theirs meet yours, and according to what degree of importance. It’s a Venn diagram. And then the algorithms determine how exceptional those particular correlations are: it’s more statistically significant to share an affection for the Willies than for the Beatles. The match is expressed as a percentage. Each match search requires tens of millions of mathematical operations. To the extent that OK Cupid has any abiding faith, it is in mathematics.


"There’s another layer: how to sort the matches. “You’ve got to make sure certain people don’t get all the attention,” Rudder said. “In a bar, it’s self-correcting. You see ten guys standing around one woman, maybe you don’t walk over and try to introduce yourself. Online, people have no idea how ‘surrounded’ a person is. And that creates a shitty situation. Dudes don’t get messages back. Some women get overwhelmed.” And so the attractiveness ratings, as well as the frequency of messaging, are factored in. As on Match.com, the algorithms pay attention to revealed preferences. “We watch people who don’t know they’re being watched,” Sam Yagan, the company’s C.E.O., said. “But not in a Big Brother way.” The algorithms learn as they go, changing the weighting for certain variables to adjust to the success or the failure rate of the earlier iterations. The goal is to connect you with someone with whom you have enough in common to want to strike up an e-mail correspondence and then quickly meet in person. It is not OK Cupid’s concern whether you are suited for a lifetime together.

5 comments:

Online Dating Site said...

great article. Online dating is been gaining momentum for the past pass few years. I don't believe that their mathematical calculation are totally off but I think that spending time with another human being will tell you everything you need to knowm

Ted Moore said...

Online dating sites are now famous in the field of internet. Most of the visitors are single people who are seeking of love and partner.

Filipino dating said...

In the world of internet today , only dating site creates a big impact to everyone.I had read some interesting love story about two people who fall in love with each other even they just meet by online.

Kazakh women said...

There are thousands of dating sites,
only the big sites keep alive in time ?

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