Those who face a smaller market for potential partners and may not have bars or social groups where they can meet potential partners in their areas – like gay men, lesbians and middle-aged heterosexuals – are generally more likely to turn to the Internet, says Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University.
When they met on Match, he was a real hoot. In real life? Not so much. Sharon Rosenblatt, an IT consultant in Washington, D.C., decided to go on a date with one of the men recommended to her by the site’s algorithms. During their meal, she says, he asked her whether it was too late to call a woman he dated two weeks prior. He then “friended” her on Facebook during dinner and, before the check arrived, asked, “Why couldn’t you have hooked me up with your hotter friends?”
“It’s very early in the online dating industry,” says Dan Slater, author of “Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating.” Sites have gotten better at cross-referencing what people say and do, “but there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” he says.
Short of scanning each member’s driver’s license and cross-checking their height and date of birth, there’s not a lot that dating sites can do about the honesty of their members, experts say
Match says the site does its best to suggest people based on the information they supply. The site cross-references users’ preferences and also tracks what profiles they click on, in an effort to ensure that their online habits jibe with their stated preferences. eHarmony, in turn, says its team of data scientists and psychologists look at multiple “points of compatibility” between applicants. Prospective members fill out psychological tests based on categories like emotional status, character, self-perception and conflict resolution.
The sites also point to the tools they’ve introduced in an effort to improve results: In one Match feature, for instance, a multiple choice question like “When it comes to style, I like a man who dresses like this” is followed up with a list of photographs of men with various styles. Other questions let members choose from a range of voices and photographs of celebrities.
Dating sites pride themselves on the wizardry of their algorithms, but even the most sophisticated dating site can’t always screen for jerks
Over half of U.S. online daters lie on their profiles, according to a survey global research company Opinion Matters commissioned by BeautifulPeople, a dating website where members vote on whether (or not) to accept new members. U.S. online daters lie more than their U.K. counterparts by a difference of 9 percentage points (53% versus 44%), the survey found. “There’s more emphasis on celebrity culture and being successful in the U.S.,” says Greg Hodge, managing director of the site.
This is supported by other studies. More than half of online daters (54%) said dates have “seriously misrepresented” themselves in their profiles, according to a 2013 study by the nonprofit Pew Research Center’s “Internet & American Life Project.” Men will typically add one to two inches in height, while women will shave 10 pounds off their weight, Slater says. Tinder went on a Twitter rant earlier this month against Vanity Fair magazine over a provocatively entitled article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.’” Nancy Jo Sales, the author, tweeted data by market research firm GlobalWebIndex, which alleged that 30% of all Tinder users are married. GlobalWebIndex said that figure is actually 34% of global Tinder users, while Tinder said its own survey of 265,000 users found that only 1.7% of its users were married.
“Bad data in means bad data out,” says Amy Webb, kasidie author of “Data, a Love Story: How I Gamed Dating to Meet My Match.” But the truth will out: Webb says online suitors should expect their dates to be a little taller or shorter than stated in their profile. And if people appear older when they’re sitting under the bright lights of Starbucks? Well, it’s probably because they are.