What they don’t tell you about online dating: the mathematics of love.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 relationships start online and predicted that 70% will use online dating services in the future. The current reality of online dating:

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Approaching dating as though it is testing out what I call, your happiness hypothesis, your own personalized algorithm that can help minimize some of your own expectations. Create an equation (just like the dating sites) that includes the elements that you absolutely require (fixed variable) and the elements that you think you want (random variable). Focus just on characteristics, qualities and life desires. For example: a friend of mine has the following requirements of the men she dates: ivy educated, graduate degree, professional, shared religion, family-oriented, certain age range, & certain height requirements. Physical appearance, sense of humor, adventurous, and work-life balance are not priorities for her. Identify the elements that you think you must have and those that you’d like to have.Β  You might find that dating based on a system testing out your happiness hypothesis, will help you figure out what is a better fit for yourself.

 

66 thoughts on “What they don’t tell you about online dating: the mathematics of love.

  1. You are terrific. Any ideas on how I can promote my blog to middle age single women? I feel we need each other in this bleak dismal black hole of no decent men…. Thanks (writing a book too). Leslie

    1. Thanks Leslie! Great minds think alike!

      Congrats on the book!!! Are you self-publishing or a traditional publisher?

      The best way is by content. I really don’t know of any real formula. It has to resonate with that audience. Since facebook has more women, have you thought about creating a page for the blog? If you don’t have one already?

      1. Have one :). Not sure yet. Just writing “Tales of a Boy Addict”….each chapter starts w the boys names (targets of my addiction) starting at age 7- “Nicky”.

  2. I would say the same is true IRL as well. When we meet a random person it’s easy to judge the book by the cover. We may not like the content, but we like to show off our new purchase (maybe library check out is a better metaphor.) Agree we need to look past the “front page pics” and find what we are looking for to begin with. Online dating can make that easier than the IRL random. They put the contents of the book on the cover, just in fine print. (I still like the pictures though!)

    1. Thanks so much for your insightful comments umadyet! I love your blog BTW!!!

      While I agree with you, I think we need to do both in both scenarios. Going with your analogy, we need to read the contents. Initially we pick up the book because the title catches our eye. But, it’s the substance that will keep us reading.

      Online mimics IRL, right. We’re suing the ame analytics in both. We are discounting data, interpreting data, etc to figure out should I bother with this person. My gripe is the back and forth of online. Just meet. What’s the big deal? Why are people so hung up on a virtual relationship?

      1. It’s the same reason for both. IRL, most have been with someone that they know isn’t right for them, however hang on for the image or benefits. (Not a true relationship, but sometimes fun!) Online, you can have the emotional title of being in a relationship without having to do the in-person work. (Having the book on the shelf without ever reading it.)

        I would say the big deal is when you take that book off the shelf and start reading, you may regret your purchase. You’ve invested some time into this person. Finding out you have made a bad investment in your virtual time may be the fear in the actual meetup.

        However, what do I know? I still like the picture and the pop-up books!

        1. I appreciate your honesty. I think men and women use different reasons to stay in relationships IRL and online. IRL you made an emotional investment and can be compounded by “image and benefits”. Online is just an investment of time. Which I think should be used more wisely πŸ™‚

          “Finding out you have made a bad investment in your virtual time may be the fear in the actual meetup.”

          What? So wasting more time in a epen-pal is worthwhile? Why not cut your loses and exit gracefully?

          I am gonna start treating men like pop-up books πŸ™‚ lol

  3. This is so true, and sad almost. We are given options of men laid out in front of us with their credentials lined up – it’s hard not to want to find the best of the best. I’ve been online dating about a year and a half now, and I’m trying to branch out and not limit myself to my “checklist” of requirement. It’s definitely a different mindset then how you might normally meet someone and start dating!

    1. The best approach you can have is to treat it like a social experiment. Collect data on what you want vs what you need.

      Most people are using that same approach (selecting the best out of the bunch) and they are bypassing perfectly good people. I’m dating someone that I met offline. When I saw his profile online I would’ve bypassed his whole profile.

      Online is different, but you should use both methods to meet people.

      1. I agree completely. There was awhile I took it all too seriously, and let it all get to me way too much when it wasn’t “working.” When I took a step back and reassessed how I was handling it and how I was reacting it became a whole different experience – and that new process (of not taking it so seriously, not sticking to my checklist, and giving guys a fair chance) led to me meet the guy I’m dating now – who before, I probably would have passed right by and ignored.

        1. And that’s why online is so frustrating for people. For many, the process is frustrating enough. But, don’t try in the real world. They just give up altogether or sign up on a different site to find the same people πŸ™‚

          So happy you found a great guy!

  4. Reblogged this on andonlyentertainment and commented:
    how can some1 think of a companion without SENSE OF HUMOR πŸ˜› ?
    One day, some of us were discussing what kinda man we need.. after a long discussion we concluded .. a man with good sense of humor because .. if he has good sense of humor it means he is intelligent, if he in intelligent then he must be educated, if he is educated then he must have a good job, if has a good job then he is earning well πŸ˜›
    everything covered πŸ˜›
    hence SENSE OF HUMOR.. and that too good is the need of the day

  5. I enjoyed reading this for both the entertainment value and the truth of it. I think there’s another angle here to consider. When folks are looking for a relationship and they aren’t in one, dating sites are an opportunity to feel like they’re “doing something” about changing their situation, I think. I don’t know what the value of that perspective is; the experiences I’ve had and heard about in every way support your analysis πŸ™‚ Keep writing!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your insights and perspective with us Kirsti! You are absolutely right! It is a way to be actively participating in your love life and a frustrating one at that πŸ™‚ But, it provides us data and comedy to share with others πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for your support and kind words! I really appreciate it!!

  6. I think, personally, that too many people are concerned with finding their perfect match that they forget the self-promotion side of online dating – typing a few words into a box is no guarantee of anything and if you are not prepared to make an effort then you will end up closing your profile in disgust after a few weeks.

    From a male perspective, what you then end up with is 500 female profiles that all read exactly the same and nothing to choose between them except a photograph or two. A woman whose profile answers questions imaginatively, makes me laugh and presses the right buttons has a higher chance of getting a message from me. If all you can manage is “I like going out, staying in, my friends mean the world to me and I’m close to my family!” you’re just going to get lost in the flood of other mundane and lazy profiles that are just two sentences long.

    I also think a lot of people cling to fantasies and are more concerned with what they want than thinking about what they might be capable of attracting. You’re not going to meet Brad Pitt on POF and even if he was on there, he will be spoilt for choice.

    This is coming from somebody who is average height, average looks, slightly overweight but with a good education and an average income. I have had a whale of a time and had no problem attracting dates because a) I have identified and played to my strengths and b) been realistic about what I can attract.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insightful comments with us, CUCH!

      I agree people should complete their profiles if they intend on attracting the right set of people looking at their profiles. At the end of it all, people aren’t very good discerning what they want versus what they need.

      So, you’ll get men who will say what they think women will want to hear (take long walks on the beach) and women who will say what they are (kind, fun-loving, all-around girl looking for…).

      Online is the new bar except that everybody is game for rejection (independent of gender). In most cases men apply your strategy [a) I have identified and played to my strengths and b) been realistic about what I can attract.] and women experiment with approaching men. Both strategies lead to people learning more about what they want or adjust what they want based on their results.

      Does “This is coming from somebody who is average height, average looks, slightly overweight but with a good education and an average income.” mean that people that are the opposite have better odds?

      1. Better odds in terms of volume perhaps, though not necessarily in other ways (for example, getting more messages says nothing about the quality of the person messaging you).

        OKCupid ran an experiment a couple of years ago about who gets the most messages. The results were shocking, not just in terms of how relatively rarely women message men compared to the other way around, but how much disparity there is between the number of messages received by the most attractive men and the most attractive women in the experiment. Take a look here.

        I am certainly not saying that women have it easier – on the contrary I think both genders have different advantages and disadvantages in online dating.

        As I said, I can’t complain – I have (had?) 99% positive experience.

        1. I agree that people have challenges while online dating. I also agree that volume is inversely related to quality πŸ™‚ That is where most women take issue with online dating. We get more messages, but go on few dates. I find that to be the most frustrating part. Why isn’t the algorithm sending me matches based on my preferences? Why aren’t men looking at what I want? Can you tell me what the typical male approach is?

          Thanks for sending the link. I was surprised by the 581% difference!

          1. That is where most women take issue with online dating. We get more messages, but go on few dates.

            And men’s issues with online dating is because they send so many message and get so few responses; as a consequence they too get so few actual dates. It’s no more or less easier for one gender than it is the other.

            Why isn’t the algorithm sending me matches based on my preferences?

            Could be any number of things – an incomplete profile, perhaps they are not being honest with themselves, perhaps aiming too high? It’s too easy to blame the site(s) or the other gender and far harder to look inward and admit that you yourself might be doing something wrong.

            Why aren’t men looking at what I want?

            It isn’t just women who get messages from completely unsuitable people – you just get more in volume. Proportionally? Based on conversations with female friends, about the same percentage from people who will never interest you. I would say anything up to about 50% of messages from women who approached me first had clearly not read my profile and didn’t even remotely appeal to what I was looking for – I would even say most of them had major deal breakers.

            Can you tell me what the typical male approach is?

            There isn’t one *shrug*. Usually I started by referring to something in the profile that we have in common, maybe even include an anecdote if appropriate. I ask a question, something to get a conversation going and then maybe some humour. It worked for me so I stuck with it.

            Some men just carpet bomb “hi” because they have got so few responses that they have given up the bother of crafting a message. The average response rate for a man is one reply for every twenty women he messages. It’s no wonder some who are on for years get fed up with 19/20 ignored. Mine, I think, was about 1/10 to 1/12 – that would be about right. I messaged some 200 women over the course of 15 months (I stopped on January since I started exclusively dating Mirror Image) and went on dates with 18 women in total. There was probably in the region of about 5-10 where the conversation petered out or for one reason or the other we never met up.

            I think I’m going to write a blog post on this over the coming week, because I am getting tired of reading both men AND women around the blogosphere complain how the other gender has it so easy with online dating (something neither can know for certain) while doing nothing to remedy the situation for themselves. Online dating is not a magic wand, but like a magic wand you have to figure out how to use it properly πŸ˜€

            1. Thanks for sharing your insights with us! I really appreciate your perspective and honesty. I don’t doubt it’s difficult for men. I know there’s a qualitative and quantitative difference for both genders. As a scientist, I have academic interest in understanding the granularity of the differences.

              Not sure if you read the story of the American Math PhD who hacked okcupid: http://www.wired.com/2014/01/how-to-hack-okcupid/. He hacked the site by harvesting data from 50,000 profiles, categorizing them, mathematically manipulated their algorithm and still went through 88 dates to find his ideal partner.

              1. You’re welcome, as ever Clarissa. I just wish people would stop making sweeping generalisations about online dating because it doesn’t help dialogue about dating and relative quality of matches, and about how the playing field has changed and is changing for both men and women.

                I feel it is being levelled in many ways – some men and some women want to resist that because they realise they are losing the privileges they once enjoyed – whether that is privileges of their gender or the leg up they had for being conventionally attractive (or both).

                Thanks for the link. When I have a lazy evening free this week I will take a look πŸ™‚

                1. Oh I also forgot to thank you for spearheading an article about it! Yeah, I agree that we need to find solutions instead of focusing on problems. There are no formulas to love. That’s the reason so many sites and services exist. I told you the math story not to bore you but, to share how a math genius still had to go on dates over time. OK Cupid is designed by 2 mathematicians!

                  I don’t know that being a female/male/attractive/both doesn’t give you a leg up. We are being based on images among a sea of images. Online mimics offline when it comes to rules of attraction. People are discounting perfectly good candidates because their profiles don’t stand out to people at the time.

                  1. Hi Clarissa, I published my article today if you (or your readers) are interested in reading my thoughts as a 2-year veteran πŸ™‚ Which gender has it easier online dating?

                    People are discounting perfectly good candidates because their profiles don’t stand out to people at the time.

                    Which is a privilege that women have enjoyed since time immemorial based purely on men’s physical appearance – he isn’t tall enough, his hair is falling out, he’s slightly overweight, he wears glasses, I don’t like the clothes he wears etc (while not giving a chance to get to know him)

                    Online mimics offline when it comes to rules of attraction.

                    Online dating a) is microcosm of the real world but at the same time… b) levels the playing field in a lot of ways for a lot of people and forces everyone else to up their game

                    Anyway, looking forward to your thoughts on my article πŸ™‚

                    1. Thanks for sharing the article! I’m looking forward to reading it! I am not sure that I think women are the only ones that would discount men based on: “he isn’t tall enough, his hair is falling out, he’s slightly overweight, he wears glasses, I don’t like the clothes he wears etc (while not giving a chance to get to know him)” or things along this line. I think both genders discount people. I seem to recall that I’ve heard men are more visual? What kind of equation reliant thinking do men apply? πŸ™‚

                      Looking forward to reading the article!

                    2. I am not sure that I think women are the only ones that would discount men based on:

                      I agree, women are not the only ones. Of course men do it too… but I think some women like to pretend as though it is only men that do this (hence where the mantra that “men are more visual” seems to spring up time and time again). Such women will be first to complain that a man has rejected her because she is overweight but will feel it is perfectly acceptable for her to reject a man who is beneath her arbitrary minimum height requirement.

                      But anyway… I’ll stop putting the world to rights. Shallowness is not specific to one gender and neither is self-deception that shallowness is exclusive to the other gender πŸ™‚

                      I look forward to getting your feedback!

                    3. The men are visual comment is based on scientific understanding of cognition and perception. Just like online dating is all based on perception. Your experience in the present and your past will inform your perception.

                      Understanding that taking apart what we say only contributes to semantic differences and does not change the end goal: People want to find love and not be frustrated by it. Picking at what one gender does over the other sounds a lot like revealing your own insecurities about yourself.

                      Do I think any of these things contribute to people finding their ideal type? Nope! It has the opposite effect. The more you highlight the deficiencies you experience as external to you, the further you get from meeting the ideal person for you πŸ™‚

                    4. The men are visual comment is based on scientific understanding of cognition and perception.

                      I think a lot of women misunderstand that to mean that men are only interested in the visual or that there is one universal standard of attractive and unattractive which simply isn’t true. Some prefer slender petite blondes, and others prefer taller curvy brunettes and so on

                      Picking at what one gender does over the other sounds a lot like revealing your own insecurities about yourself.

                      I certainly agree and those who are usually the most critical of the opposite gender are usually the ones with the impossibly high standards and the dichotomy of being insecure about themselves in the dating game. It’s a defensive shield.

                      The more you highlight the deficiencies you experience as external to you, the further you get from meeting the ideal person for you

                      I agree – the more you limit what you think you want (or believe yourself entitled to) the less likely you are to meet somebody who will be right for you and the more you will keep making the same mistakes and scratching your head for why it never seems to work out πŸ™‚

                    5. I think society and media dictates what is universal attractiveness. Women are constantly told they are not good enough πŸ™‚ Evidenced by the amount of beauty products, cosmetic surgery techniques, diet pills, etc that are marketed to women. πŸ™‚

                      I agree that those that are critical may have longer lists because they are either self-obsessed or insecure due to past experiences and relationships. And yes that would function as a protective barrier.

                      I love it how we write whole articles as responses to one another! Thank you for always keeping me on my toes, inspired and thinking!

                    6. BDD is a growing problem for men (I write about it here if you are interested) and now just as common in men as in women. We’re not good enough if we’re not tall (your friend above displays that typical minimum height requirement so common with online dating profiles), And god forbid if you happen to be losing your hair!

                      Anyway, please take a look and you’ll see the problems that we face, including how it is more acceptable to ridicule men for their physical appearance.

                      I love it how we write whole articles as responses to one another! Thank you for always keeping me on my toes, inspired and thinking!

                      Likewise! I think the more often we are exposed to opposing views, the more we can all understand how certain problems affect “the other half”.

                    7. Thanks for sharing your article. I will definitely take a look! I have been seeing this trend evolve over some years in practice. Height has always been an issue for men, historically πŸ™‚

                      I don’t know if these things really impede you getting what you want. If you believe someone else is better, faster, stronger; you will constantly feel insecure. What I think I’d rather have people focus on is getting what they want. Ignore the rest of it. So what you are x,y,z? There is someone out there for everyone. πŸ™‚

                      The irony is people don’t want to be judged by their looks, it’s their character, personality, their core being. Makes no difference whether you are average looking or universally attractive-all of us still have to find what works best for us. Right?

                      People make assumptions about everything when they are looking and basing it on looks. I am perceives as being attractive, therefore, men give me everything, I have no issues finding men, men fall over themselves. Do you see what I’m illustrating here?

                    8. I don’t know if these things really impede you getting what you want

                      Well it does if a man messages a woman who otherwise seems like a great match and she tells him the only reason she wouldn’t go on a date with him is because he is only 1″ taller than her – and she admits that she would have otherwise have met up with him for a date.

                      Yes that happened to me. I didn’t take it personally, I just rolled my eyes at her sheer stupidity and moved on to the next one – after all, I’m not the one who complains at not getting dates while turning people down for the most petty of reasons. She’s only harming herself.

                      Makes no difference whether you are average looking or universally attractive-all of us still have to find what works best for us. Right?

                      That’s the ideal but we know it doesn’t work that way because…

                      I have no issues finding men, men fall over themselves. Do you see what I’m illustrating here?

                      … your experience is going to be completely different from a woman who has a lot less going for her and for a variety of reasons has never had “men falling at her feet”. Men will fall at your feet whether they are a good match for you or not, or whether you are a good match for them or not. I know that comes with its own set of problems but it doesn’t begin to compare to those of us who have largely been ignored by the opposite gender most of our adult lives.

                      I guess I would fall into that category (on the male side obviously) so I know I have had to work hard to attract anybody – just to stand out.

                      I have learnt to make the best of what I do have in order to compete. Yes, we do have to find what works for us but for most of us our options are fairly limited and always have been, we can’t have the pick of the bunch – especially when we are being dismissed for petty reasons. Do you understand what I am illustrating here?

                    9. I agree that we think we are using some kind of scale online. In life we’ll make exceptions.

                      All I’m saying is that approaching dating like we have limited access to what we want gets us what we don’t want.

                      I do see what you illustrated. Mine is based on what people might perceive. Just like what you are illustrating is based on what you’re perceiving. Let me ask you this: using your thinking is it getting you what you want or what you think you can get based on the sea of others?

                    10. Well, most of the women I have dated since I started online dating have been – in one way or another – what I am looking for, yes. Is that what you mean? The answer to that is yes… NOW
                      That wasn’t always the case though as illustrated up the thread – hence my comment about being ignored most of my adult life and by your standards I did have limited access to what I wanted for most of it.

                    11. πŸ™‚ I think it’s important to understand the past but not re-live it in the future. You have become who you are based on your experiences. One of the biggest keys for us as we evolve is how much we adapt to new conditions. Online dating is the new condition that we have to explore who we are while we do it. It’s a new environment that won’t respond in the same way as we were accustomed to.

                      I appreciate what you’re saying because ultimately you’re saying that not everybody’s experience is going to be the same or 100% easy, but neither was offline πŸ™‚

                      I’m glad that your experience has changed now, though. Do you think that you are making up for the past?

                    12. I certainly feel I have had a lot of catching up to do and making up for that πŸ™‚ I was very much the late bloomer – not having my first relationship of any kind until I was 24. It lasted 12 years and was clearly dysfunctional in many ways from the beginning – but I didn’t know any better so I put up with it.

                    13. Since I keep up with your progress because of your blog, I feel like you have grown tremendously in a very short time. How much do you think you have gotten closer to understanding what you need verses what you want? Do you feel like you have been experimenting with different types to find out who you want to be with?

                    14. How much do you think you have gotten closer to understanding what you need verses what you want?

                      What I have always felt I have wanted hasn’t changed much – the sort of person who is good for me is still good for me. I have learnt to identify the negative traits. What I need? I think it is more or less the same, somebody who makes me feel alive inside.

                      Do you feel like you have been experimenting with different types to find out who you want to be with?

                      All of the dates I have been on have had a handful of common attributes – but none of them are physical. Indiechick was a 5′ blonde and as thin as a rake for example and Mischief was about 6″ taller and twice as wide. Mirror Image is about 4″ shorter than I am with black hair and glasses and though not slim, she’s not big either – she’s about halfway between the two I’ve just mentioned. You really couldn’t pick my physical type from looking at any of them. I have a physical preference but I have never limited myself to that.

                      As for character types, I tried about 3-4 who were out of my comfort zone – none of them had a particularly high education level, none of them had aspirations beyond their current job and all were plodders (meaning they were happy with their lot and to go wherever the tide took them).

                      That’s not me – and I tried to see their point of view. I’m sure you understand by now that intelligence is the primary attracting factor for me – thoughtfulness, conversation, nerdiness, a quick wit, someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, somebody curious and willing to just try. These are things that have always appealed even before I had heard of the word “sapiosexual”. That’s what I want and it is where I feel I flourish too and by personal experience, that’s the sort of women I am attracting.

                      I’d rather date a penniless artist than a CEO on a seven figure salary. Few others might get that, and that’s fine because I have finally come to terms that that’s ok not to want what everybody else wants.

                    15. In the second response you described the answer to the first question πŸ™‚

                      Funny thing how you went on and on about how you hate being judged by superficial characteristics especially height and hair and all you did was disqualify these women on superficial characteristics! LOL

                      YOu don’t have to be apologetic about what you want to be with. Be happy that you are one of the rare few that know what works for them. Why am I gonna knock you for liking nerdy, quick witted, chatty types πŸ™‚

                      Many men don’t feel comfortable with a women out-earning them. Oh, thanks for explaining plodders, mate πŸ™‚

                    16. Hmmm, I fail to see what superficial characteristics I disqualified any of those women on? I dated outside my comfort zone – I tried and felt zero connection. They were perfectly lovely women, but I felt nothing. As for Indiechick and Mischief, I was attracted to them equally.

                      Besides which, I’m not complaining here about a lack of suitable people to date:

                      “Where are all the decent men goooooooone? It’s not fair!”
                      “Hey here’s one?” “Nah, an inch below my minimum height”
                      “This one?” “Receding hairline”
                      “Him?” “slightly overweight”
                      “This fella?” “Has a beard”
                      “Ok… him?” “Oh no, I don’t like his nose”
                      ‘This man?” “Don’t like his shoes”
                      “HIM?!” “Oh god no, he’s a Scorpio!”
                      “Riiiiight…. this man?” “Meh, wears red. I don’t like people who wear red.”
                      *SIGH* “Hey, I’m a modern woman I’m not going to settle!”

                      Come on, you know it happens πŸ˜‰ and if I ever start to complain like that, you have every right to direct me straight back to this comment!

                      You asked earlier about whether I can attract the people I want to date and we can both agree that the answer is “yes” πŸ™‚

                    17. I was teasing you! But, I will call you out if you use any statements that resemble this list πŸ™‚

                      Glad to hear that the answer is yes to my original question πŸ™‚ I thought we were gonna go another 10 threads πŸ™‚

                      As usual, I admire you as a fellow blogger and your progress! You should consider putting out some courses on how to help other men! That would be very helpful to women! πŸ™‚

                    18. Lol, I do tend to ramble at times – I sometimes need to explain, then explain my explanation and then go back and clarify :-S

                      I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing something I am not qualified to do, personally. I like sharing my personal experiences but as for claiming to have a specialist insight that other men might / ought to live by… that’s when I tend to want to shy away. I may consider it though πŸ™‚

                    19. I appreciate that you are so expressive. πŸ™‚ It’s fun getting your reactions, perspectives and your feathers ruffled πŸ™‚

                      Yeah I seriously hope you do give it some consideration. I am not saying impart scientific evidence based theory, just what has been most efficacious out of your experience. You have been doing research, you represent what some men think-that would be beneficial for them. Because your blog is already doing that πŸ™‚ Mr I shy away from that πŸ™‚

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