Navigating the minefield of online dating apps is dangerous. At one time or another, I’ve signed up for every piece of loveware that’s gained popularity; Tinder, OKCupid, Match, eHarmony, Happn, Bumble, Skout, Badoo, Zoosk – all of them have had, at one time or another, a little space on my iPhone. I’m basically the real-life Tom Haverford, except my favourite movie isn’t books.
Yet despite the amount of time and memory these apps take up, very few users are actually aware of how these apps work. Firstly, there’s the myth: romance is dead and online dating killed it. That’s not true. While more relationships (a third in fact) are starting online, that’s not necessarily through online dating apps – in fact, most of them are through the usual social medias of Facebook and Twitter.
But your common or garden online dating app – that’s a different story. They work by quantifying how much users have in common, along with their popularity and in-box messages, and by turning that into a concrete number can gauge matchability. Some of these are more intell
igent than others; eHarmony apparently has a match scoring system that can tell users which will make them most attractive. Zoosk, however, recommended that some of my interests might be The Lad Bible, Eminem, and Cheryl Cole. Since the app had ripped my Facebook information (which consists primarily of Indiewood films, Simpsons fan pages and Oscar Wilde) these suggestions were unhelpful. The message you can take from this is that choosing a particular online dating app is just as important as choosing a romantic interest. Your dating app is the friend you go to the bar with, and I’m sure we all have those friends we don’t like going out with (I know because usually I’m that friend)
What dating comes down to, like almost everything else in life, is a load of data points. Amy Webb ‘hacked’ online dating, as she recounts in her Ted Talk, by creating a list of qualifications for the man she was looking for, and then created fake profiles to find out what the competition was. She found that popular men and women are sticking to 97 words on average that are well written because they utilise non-specific language. This is why Tinder works; there’s this thing called ‘Analysis Paralysis’ where the more you know about someone, the less likely you are to go out with them because you’re too busy thinking about all the things you might not agree on. You don’t want to go from a person to a specification.
So this Valentines Day, when you’re looking for love, remember to research your apps, find out as much as you can about the data behind them, and be as vague as possible. Online dating loves a man (or woman) of mystery.