Elisabeth Kasson’s interview with OkCupid CEO Sam Yagan fascinates me, and not only because I have a thing for algorithms. I met my wife through JDate, and pretty much every searching single I know is a member of one dating site, though usually more. Although everyone’s got different stories, in one respect we all came to a common conclusion: Meeting potential dates online just isn’t as messy as it is in the Real World.
I’m not thinking about sites where people troll for relationships that are, let’s say, off the beaten path. I’m thinking of places like OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, narrower sites like JDate and CatholicSingles.com or, if the election has you hot and bothered, RepublicanPeopleMeet.com and DemocraticPeopleMeet.com.
My typical first date involved a diner and a fair amount of caffeine. Before crossing my fingers and sending that first email, I’d read a woman’s profile to get a feel for her sense of humor, interests, lifestyle, self-confidence and, yes, looks. If you think I’m shallow because of the looks thing, wait until you hear my deal breakers: a love of Harleys and “wind in my hair,” blind adherence to any political party, skepticism about whether the moon landings really happened, overuse of emoticons, overuse of exclamation marks and multiple pictures of pets. My wife, I should observe, came close to falling into one of these traps when she said her ideal man “must win the heart of my new pup Cody.” Fortunately she hadn’t gotten around to posting his picture yet.
In my travels I was struck by how often I surfaced the same profiles on multiple sites, often presented in the same order. It made me skeptical of all the algorithm talk. Despite the technology behind it, I think online dating’s success has less to do with great search engines and more with the simple tools it provides to help identify people who meet your basic criteria, aren’t too far away and share some common interests.
I never kept count of how many people I met online, but I’ll guess the total was less than some and more than others. In most cases they were interesting people, though some showed distinct flaws in human behavior. I’m sure I generated a range of feelings, too. Of course, my story turned out well. Lynne and I have been together for eight years, married for seven, and as I write this the terrier whose heart I had to win is sleeping underneath my desk.
Image: Decoded Stuff