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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The highs, lows and success of online dating

    Jesus Barrera

    University of California, Los Angeles graduate student Chris McKinlay was no chump: he was a mathematician.

    Rather than let fate randomly choose the love of his life, McKinlay took matters into his own hands. He knew that the creation of affection and a life spent together should be the product of deductive reasoning.

    OkCupid, a matchmaking website founded in 2004, pairs users based on their answers to survey questions. According to Wired, McKinlay created 12 fake OkCupid profiles.

    Using sophisticated computer programing and statistical analysis, he sorted the data of 20,000 female users into two categories: artsy young women and professional creative women. He then created two separate profiles which assigned varying degrees of importance to the questions OkCupid posed for matchmaking purposes.

    These degrees of importance were evenly weighted according to the statistical preferences of each group. By aligning his own profile with those of potential partners, McKinlay hoped to boost his chances of finding a life partner.

    A year later, McKinlay was happily in a relationship with one of his outputs. He’s not being just some smooth pick up artist when he says she’s one in 200,000. Finally, some honesty.

    But where are the nerves, the tension, the surprise? Where’s the serendipity? What is this, “Brave New World”?

    We cringe at the idea, but online dating is our legacy as millenials. There’s a dating website for every niche: Tinder, with so many options and a simple swipe to happiness, OkCupid, with generous essays on different peoples’ personalities,, with its guaranteed soulmates, PlentyOfFish and Coffee Meets Bagel, and the list goes on.

    In “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science,” published by the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists refer to our generation’s obsession with online dating as an “assessment-oriented mindset.” We evaluate our compatibility with potential partners in an often misguided attempt to improve romantic outcomes.

    The authors of the paper explain that this assessment mindset is at the heart—or rather, heartlessness—of some of the most poisonous relationship dynamics. When we expect others to be our soulmates, we become disgusted at the slightest lack of harmony.

    The authors of the article, however, suggest that a “work-it-out” mindset is more likely to lead happiness: relationships are strengthened and created by working out problems. We put heavy emphasis on the strength of algorithms and math (which secretly disgust the more romantic of us), hoping to replace the effort of maintenance with the natural strength of compatibility.

    Despite the authors’ misgivings, it seems this more utilitarian approach to love is working. According to the Huffington Post, as of 2013 about one in three marriages begin online. Only 6 percent of these break up as opposed to 8 percent who meet in the offline world. It does seem that online dating has its perks. It provides more options than just mingling in the outside world and greater quantity means a greater chance of success. It seems, however, that what we gain in options, we trade in patience: feeling that there’s an abundance of partners means we don’t engage the necessary effort that is key to creating a successful relationship.

    So, where’s the sweet spot this Valentine’s Day? We want efficiency, but we also want our love to work out. During this amorous season, take a hint from the mathematicians and scientists of the world and make sure you choose wisely.

    Follow Alexandria Farrar on Twitter.

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