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Business Unusual

Love is a four-letter word, so is data

1 June 2022 7:15 PM
Digital technology

Online dating is destined to become the most popular for younger generations

There is an old adage now that says if a digital product is free, you are the product. On dating apps there is no question that you are the product. This is a brief look at how the business and technology of dating apps are changing things and in some respects may make meeting someone easier and perhaps make for long lasting relationships.

Collecting the data then using it

Normally research done at universities often uses those at university which can lead to w.e.i.r.d results - white, educated, industrialised, rich, and democratic. By using a larger set and from a wider area you should get better data and you don’t have people trying to answer a research study, they are actively trying to find a partner.

OKCupid once ran an experiment where rather than connecting profiles based on what their algorithm would have suggested, they connected the opposite and did not inform users.

People were not happy to hear about that, but co-founder Christian Rudder responded to say that if the algorithm was never tested, they would effectively affect all users negatively, if the test group demonstrated that their actual prediction was better than chance or possibly significantly worse then they would actually be improving it. The best case would be to inform users that some of their matches would be made using alternative methods, if the users were happy to be part of the experiment without knowing which they were, it would cover all the bases.

OkCupid is owned by which also owns Hinge and most notably Tinder so they are the closest thing to a real Cupid on the planet.

Most of those dating in the US meet online

It may not apply in SA though.

How OKCupid matches people up

OKCupid use lots of questions, typically ones that don’t sound obvious like are you messy, they ask it as it relates to you and then how they would like a partner to answer, then they ask how important it is. This method has likely evolved since they launched but like all algorithms they need to get data and convert the data to a number to run a formula to get an answer - in this case will you be a good match for another user.

OkCupid also shares the data they capture from those that use the platform including a book, Dataclysm, that was published in 2014 with the following remarkable finding.

Women were asked what age male they find the most attractive. The answers were plotted according to the age of the woman when she answered and the age that was given. At graph that plots the preferred age of men as being within a year or two of their own age up to age 40 when it tends to remain about 40 even as the women are older.

That does not seem crazy, but the surprise was in how men answered the same question. 20-year-old men liked women in their early 20s, 25-year-old men also preferred women in their early 20s, so did 30-year-old men and those in their 40s and 50s.

Some may be shocked while others will not be surprised at all.

They still post regular updates with this new insights like how much climate change is an issue to users and many other trends.

There are other issues that the data reflects besides men wanting younger partners, it looks like in the US there is a bias against black women and Asian men. It suggests the bias is systemic even if the individuals may have a broad range of reasons for why they feel the way they do. The Daily Show did a segment on this and had an hour discussion unpacking it.

Dating outside your social groups can have a down side too. If you were to start a relationship in a friendship group, a break up could be messy as you are likely to still see the person or at least their friends and so you don’t start a relationship without due consideration.

Dating apps make it easy to connect but also easy to leave and so the idea of casual hook-ups and simply ghosting people you don’t like is easier too and so more common. Ghosting is the damaging form of break-up where one partner effectively behaves like the relationship never happened and completely ignores the other person.

Even for those that really want to form a relationship, there are dangers as illustrated in a court case in May. A male had met what he thought was a potential female partner. They messaged each via a dating app and got to the point where the male was requested to send nude pictures of themselves. At that point the supposed partner revealed they were male and demanded over R10 000 to not post the pictures to friends and on social media. The case was reported and the man arrested and charged, he was sentenced to seven years in jail which was suspended after he pleaded guilty and paid back the money.

It is good that we now have case law for this and other related online relationship cases, but it is fair to say that there are likely more that pay the money and never feel safe that the pictures may not be shared. Depending on your age you may have a very different reaction to sharing nude photos. Given that it is now more common than ever, many may not consider the downside until something goes wrong, while others may view them being shared as not that damaging because so little is private now. Be that as it may, very few if anyone would welcome their images being shared or money being demanded to not share them, so it is best being limited if not avoided completely.

Elle magazine created the definitive list of dating apps for 2022, 28 in total that are sure to cover whatever specific need you may have when looking for a potential partner.

There are also good stories to be told and one that is told very well by We Regret To Inform You: The Rejection Podcast is about the story of the founding of Hinge. The founder created the app after his relationship ended because of his drinking and because he had then given up drinking and did not want to try to meet new people where there may be drinking. It was a real touch and go to make the app successful including nearly going bankrupt after rebuilding the app to not favour quick meet-ups like Tinder does. It effectively creates a match by showing profiles that fit yours and that both users swipe right once shown the others profile.

The switch worked and it was bought by making the founder a rich man. The app uses the pay off line that it wants you to delete the app once you have found a match. The founder told a journalist about how the app allowed a person with a life long crush on a friend from their youth to connect and eventually get married. The journalist asked the founder about his lost love and whether he let them know how much they meant and that the story he told of the user of the platform may also apply to him. He accepted the advice and reached out just weeks before his former girlfriend was to be married. After a meeting, she opted to stop the marriage and some months later the two got back together and have since gotten married.

Now that is how to build an app that works.

1 June 2022 7:15 PM
Digital technology

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