Computer-generated matchmaking has been around since the 1960s. Students at Harvard created one of the first programs called “Operation Match” that helped other students find dates. In 1965, an accountant and programmer in New York City started a project called TACT, or “Technical Automated Compatibility Testing,” the city’s first computer-dating service. The popular sites Match.com and eHarmony came later, in 1995 and 2000 respectively.
Today, popular sites include OkCupid, established in 2004, and the app Tinder, established in 2012. Last summer, my friend circle talked about OkCupid quite a bit, and honestly I made fun of them for using it. I did not see the validity in meeting someone a computer said you match “93%” with.
Finally, most of my close friends created profiles, and a few had some success, so I decided to give it a try.
Within five minutes, I was obsessed. The site asks you to fill out your profile with your gender, your gender preference in a match, your age, height, body type, ethnicity, astrological sign and other details. After adding a few selfies your profile is ready for the market. OkCupid asserts, “Join the best free dating site on Earth!” and some guy on Yelp! even says that the site is “pretty legit.”
I have had an OkCupid account for about four months now. I would get messages daily ranging from “Hey, you’re a cutie!” to “Here is my email, I will send you pix, I’m looking for a casual hookup and I hope you are too ;)” to even “Hello there, I have gold teeth and tattoos on my face, but I am a really great guy once you get to know me.” Just recently, I went on dates for the first time from the site. I realized something very pertinent that is missing from these sites: the immediate reaction you get when first meeting someone.
With online dating, the flirting is lost, and you basically know all the person’s likes and personality before you meet them. There are some crucial data that these dating sites fail to gather, like how the matches will interact in person, and the fact that similar interests in books or music taste do not necessarily predict a long-lasting relationship.
Granted, some of my friends have had success using OkCupid, and others have complaints. For example, women tend to think that men do not care what their profile says, but rather just message girls based on looks.
I am a luddite against my will, so I do not have a smartphone to use the Tinder App, but to my knowledge it works like this: Pictures of men or women show up on your phone and you swipe left for “no” and right for “yes.” If you both swipe “yes,” then both parties are notified, “helping” you find people you are attracted to in your area.
How is swiping a picture on your screen better than real life? Is attraction more important than compatibility on a deeper level?