Should you date him?
He’s only a 79% match, but something about his profile makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Whereas this other guy is a 91% match, but his profile leaves you cold.
Dating sites have taken over the role of parents and society in pressuring us to date “suitable matches.”
And we don’t even notice their influence, because we’ve bought the hype.
Would you arrange a date with a man who’s a mere 65% match, when right next to him is a man who’s a 98%? Probably not.
Most of us don’t have the time or desire to meet every man we’ve ever messaged. We want to know he’s compatible before investing the effort. The match percentage seems to give us that guarantee.
But here’s the dirty little secret online dating sites don’t want you to know:
You may never spot the man of your dreams…
Because the algorithm has put him at the bottom of the pile.
Scholarly research papers are stacking up against the effectiveness of matching algorithms. Online dating algorithms cannot predict which two people will fall for each other in advance. Scientifically, it’s not yet possible—and may never be.
Are you ready to know the truth?
How Matching Algorithms Work
When you sign up to a dating site like eHarmony or OkCupid, you’re asked to fill in an extensive questionnaire. You tell the site exactly who you’re looking for. In return, it promises to deliver matches that meet your guidelines.
Christian Rudder, co-founder of OkCupid, explains how his site’s algorithm works in this informative video.
It’s a beautiful and precise solution. Find out what a person wants in the opposite sex…
Pair that information up with what that person likes (e.g., their tastes and preferences) and what’s important to them…
And you’ve got a map pointing the way to their perfect partner.
Except love doesn’t work that way.
Dealbreakers are Duds
Imagine you’ve completed a questionnaire asking you about your preferences in a potential partner. You’re given a list of 14 traits and asked if any of them would be a deal-breaker for you.
Now, imagine you’re given the profile for a guy who has not just 1 but 3 of your deal-breaker traits. You’re also told this guy would really like to meet you. In fact, he’s sitting in the next room.
Would you exchange contact information anyway?
Three out of four people would.
It turns out that what we SAY we want in a partner bears very little resemblance to the partners we ACTUALLY pick. Once we meet someone in person, all our ideals fall by the wayside.
For example, you may have heard (or experienced yourself) that men on online dating sites overwhelmingly prefer young women in their 20s.
But the fact is, most men marry women who are within a few years of their own age.
Their preference for very youthful women doesn’t translate into relationships with very youthful women, except in a small number of cases.
Preferences are Pointless
And no wonder. Researchers have found that having a preference for a particular trait doesn’t mean you’ll actually like someone with that trait.
In other words, even if you’re convinced you want to meet someone who’s fun and outgoing, you may not be attracted at all to that super-fun and outgoing guy you just met.
Your preference for his personality type is irrelevant when it comes to actually deciding how you feel about him in person.
One reason online dating sites gather so much information about your favorite foods, books and bands is so that they can match you up with people who have the same tastes as you.
Does that work? Does liking the same things make you more likely to like each other?
Nope. Several studies have found that “initial attraction in face-to-face contexts is negligibly related to similarity.”
So you could meet your exact twin—a 100% on the match scale, a man who fits all your specifications and likes everything you like—and feel completely unmoved by him.
The Final Straw
Back in 2017, researchers aimed to complete “the most thorough and comprehensive test to date of the notion that romantic attraction can be predicted from self-reported traits and preferences.”
They asked participants to complete a 30-minute questionnaire, gathering over 100 data points to use in predicting matches.
Then they set up a speed dating scenario so that the participants would meet one another and decide if they feel attracted in person.
Despite their best efforts, they were unable to find even a single variable that predicted whether two particular people would like one another.
(That’s not to say they couldn’t predict who would be considered most attractive in general. We know what makes people attractive. We’re just not sure what makes two specific people attracted to each other.)
The matches that online dating sites serve up are pretty much useless.
Algorithms provide a convenient way to sort through the mountain of singles online, but they can’t help you spot The One.
What This Means for You
Once you stop buying into the hype that matches mean much of anything, you’re free to search out profiles that look attractive to you.
So what if he’s only a 50% match? If you like the look of him and you enjoy messaging him, take a chance.
You may also want to think twice about paying extra for “superior” matching services. You’re much more likely to meet Mr. Right by going out on as many dates as possible with men who catch your eye.
Nothing can take the place of a face-to-face meeting. A great profile is only a starting place. You won’t know whether you’ll click with him until you’re sitting across the table from one another.
Chances are, the man you fall in love with will look nothing like the man you described as your perfect match.
And that’s a GOOD thing.
Love should surprise us. Surprises keep life interesting.