The Secret Science of Online Dating Revealed!
CREDIT: Digital Dating via Shutterstock
NEW YORK – Undoubtedly, legions of people who found themselves without plans this past Tuesday will be logging on to dating sites in a first step toward preventing spending the next Valentine’s Day alone.
As a co-founder of OKCupid.com, Christian Rudder knows the secrets of those who turn to the Web for love. In a talk last night (Feb. 15) at the New York Academy of Science, Rudder revealed why online dating resembles a crowded bar, how OKCupid matches up potential mates, and which types of people benefit the most from digital matchmaking.
Confronting a giddy audience of online daters (including one woman who presented herself as living proof of the site’s functionality, having "met my ex-husband online"), Rudder explained how a combination of self-reported data and observed statistics ensures that people find the right match.
However, Rudder also confirmed what many already know: that the most important part of any profile is the dating candidate's picture. Having a picture rated attractive by other OKCupid members will garner a lot of attention even if the person fails to fill out any other part of the profile. Conversely, a really interesting profile with no picture will produce little interest from other online daters.
Rudder quantified how much a good picture helps. A better-than-average level of beauty serves as a response multiplier, with the most-handsome 10 percent of men receiving 25 times more messages than the average Joe. The effect is even more pronounced for women: The comeliest 10 percent receive 250 times more attention than a plain Jane does.
To help prevent those gorgeous few from getting overwhelmed by attention, and to help spare the homely masses from continual rejection, OKCupid has a special algorithm that keeps the suggested matches in the same league, as far as looks go, as the user. So if the site keeps emailing you with potential matches that you find less than sizzling, your mirror may very well explain why, Rudder said.
"Attractiveness Ratings" – determined by OKCupid’s users themselves – "are used internally. You have to be very careful how you use those, because if you don’t direct people down fruitful avenues, all the guys will just message the hottest girls. Then those girls will leave, the site will become a sausagefest, then the guys will leave and then I have to go look for a new job," Rudder said. "So we try and suggest people that are mostly in your league. That’s why I always laugh when people say, 'Everyone on OKCupid is so ugly,' because… well…"
As expected, people usually exaggerate their height by a few inches, and Rudder calculated, based on the average income within people's ZIP codes, that users tend to overrepresent their income by 20 percent. However, smartphones have largely killed the old Internet dating trick of using a years-old picture. The average OKCupid pic is only 30 days old.
About 350 couples meet each other on the site every day, out of 600,000 who log in. The median age for an OKCupid user is 28, a revelation that pleased a number of women in the audience who expressed a desire to find a younger man. Rudder said the ideal user is between 22 and 35.
He added that many more married couples use the site than one might expect. "You’d be surprised by the number of swingers that are out there," Rudder said.
In the technological advances department, OKCupid hopes to introduce a Google-style search function that will allow users to distinguish between people based on their profile write-ups.
Interestingly, mobile functionality – the "next big thing" from so many Internet companies – is not a high priority for OKCupid.
"So much of the mobile stuff is overhyped, other than Grindr or Manhunt," said Rudder. "In the straight world it just doesn’t work."