I don't remember how I stumbled upon The Truth about Online Dating in Scientific American, but it's an entertaining read.
Before I get into it, though, I must admit that I've never played the on-line dating game. I've never been comfortable with the idea or felt compelled to get past my resistance to the expectations and judgments involved.
Anyway, numerous passages caught my eye.
Apparently there are folks who never use their real photos and even take to changing them now and then, as one might in an advertising campaign:
But Chris was not the woman in the online photos. This wasn't a question of an age discrepancy or a new hairdo. She was a completely different woman. Chris was in marketing, you see, and to her it was simply a good strategy to post photographs that would draw in as many "customers" as possible. I never said a word about the photos. I just enjoyed our conversation and the refreshments. A few weeks later I noticed that Chris had replaced the photos with those of yet another woman.
And, of course, everyone is above average:
If you are a Garrison Keillor fan, you have probably heard about the fictional Lake Wobegon on National Public Radio, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." In the online dating community, similar rules apply: in one study, only 1 percent of online daters listed their appearance as "less than average."
And apparently there's a type of SEO that goes along with getting yourself to rank well in the dating search process:
There are also straightforward, practical reasons for lying. One recent study showed that men claiming incomes exceeding $250,000 got 151 percent more replies than men claiming incomes less than $50,000, for example. Many women are quite open about listing much younger ages, often stating in the text of their profiles that they have listed a younger age to make sure they turn up in searches. (Because men often use age cutoffs in their searches, women who list ages above that cutoff will never be seen.)
And what about those on-line tests that promise your "perfect mach"?
I have been a researcher for about 30 years and a test designer for nearly half those years. When I see extravagant ads for online tests that promise to find people a soul mate, I find myself asking, "How on earth could such a test exist?"
The truth is, it doesn't.
For a psychometric evaluation to be taken seriously by scientists, the test itself needs to clear two hurdles. It needs to be shown to be reliable--which means, roughly, that you can count on it to produce stable results. And it needs to be shown to be a valid measure of what it is supposed to be measuring. With a test that matches people up, such validity would be established by showing that the resulting romantic pairings are actually successful.
Have you tried on-line dating services? Did they work for you or someone you know?
I have absolutely no idea how common it is among people I know. It really doesn't come up much in conversation.
Posted by jzawodn at February 01, 2007 07:27 AM