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Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing Society (technologyreview.com)
257 points by dtawfik1 on Oct 11, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

I think they are missing an important detail.

Online dating doesn't simply connect you to "new" people. It connects you to them privately. It is a setting in which you and you alone need to judge this person and how suitable they are as a partner for you.

I grew up in the Deep South. * I attended public school. I had non-white classmates. I knew guys who were Black or Hispanic who were interested in me.

But, I had no path forward.

In a racist environment, just talking to someone of color in a flirty way will get significant social push back. You have to be willing and able to stand your ground in order to pursue the relationship at all. People don't want to deal with something like that at the curiosity stage. Its very existence helps kill relationships before they can begin. It is just too much drama and makes it too hard to navigate the relationship.

Online dating lets you talk to people without all that. It lets you say "Hi!" and flirt without deciding five minutes after you met them that standing down the entire world is a thing you are up for.

No one in their right mind is up for that just to have coffee. You commit to that at the marriage stage, not at the making eyes at each other stage. If you have to make that decision before you can even chat them up, 99 percent of the time the decision will be to not chat them up to begin with.

Edit: I will add that the privacy angle is likely a large factor in why online dating has been so popular for starting homosexual relationships.

* A long time ago. Hopefully, it's better now.

This seems like a plausible theory, especially since the article notes that online dating is overwhelmingly popular among homosexual couples, but doesn't that theory start to fall apart when a couple is going out together? Unless their relationship is entirely secret I'd imagine they'd be seen in public eventually (especially at a school) and they'd probably still experience hostility for it (and probably worse than just flirting).

I feel like this is still related to what the authors were claiming, that people previously only dated within their social connections. The schools I've been to were never overtly racist, but friend groups still seemed to contain mostly people of the same race/class. You'd have very few chances to meet someone outside your social group if your connections only consisted of your social group.

but doesn't that theory start to fall apart when a couple is going out together?

No. That is like saying "Don't babies spontaneously abort once your pregnancy starts to show if judgy people so much as look at your belly?"

You need certain conditions conducive to establishing an initial connection. Once that connection is established, it takes more than a withering glance to kill it. It can still be killed by social disapproval, but not so effortlessly and casually.

> But doesn't that theory start to fall apart when a couple is going out together?

If you're in an environment that isn't conducive to gay people being seen as people, you may choose not to go out. Or to work up the motivation to move.

That's true and it would still make life difficult, but at that point though you may be invested enough in the relationship to push through with it. Love/attraction is a powerful thing, but it needs to mature in order to overcome social boundaries.


Please just leave personal attacks out of comments. They don't belong on Hacker News.

I have plenty of backbone. During my divorce, most of my relationships were to men who were either not white, not American or both.*

One of the reasons such climates kill interracial relationships before they can begin is because of the awareness that racism makes the personal commitment outsized and this does weird things to the relationship. Standing your ground publicly merely to flirt is a de facto signal of serious personal commitment. This makes it impossible to explore getting to know the person enough to decide whether or not you really want to make that kind of commitment. It requires you to de facto make a serious commitment on too little information. It is like being asked to sign a contract without reading it.

I didn't comment on that aspect of it in part because I don't feel I can explain it very well. But, to give an example, people who have illicit affairs always feel this must be their True Love. (Unless they are chronic philanderers.)

The very fact that they broke a taboo to get what they wanted convinces them that this person must be uniquely, highly valuable and special. The reality is that very few affairs lead to happily ever after. If the person actually gets divorced, the affair typically also ends within a year. The vast majority of affairs are only evidence that the primary relationship isn't working. But that isn't what most people conclude about their own life when they stray. They conclude this person must be super, duper special. That assumption fails to result in happily ever after in the vast majority of cases.

It is a form of Sunk Cost Fallacy.

FWIW, I do my damnedest to establish romantic relationships privately. I feel strongly that it is a decision "between me and my baby" and I feel the rest of the world can just butt the hell out. I don't like being rude to people in public but, no, I don't want to hear even casual comments about "Are you two serious?" or whatever. If you have to ask, it probably isn't any of your business in the slightest. My private life is not something I feel is an appropriate topic for casual chit chat from mere acquaintances.

* http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2015/10/reducing-bia...

> just talking to someone of color in a flirty way will get significant social push back.

This will be true in almost any public school anywhere.

Another Canadian here. Can confirm, white people dating people of other colors does not inspire any particular comment, in school or elsewhere.

It will be true anywhere where a difference in color can be expected to correspond with a large cultural difference in partners.

I went to high school in South Florida in the late eighties/early nineties, and interracial dating was quite prevalent. There was no significant social stigma about it at all. (A few loud mouth bigots don't count as significant.)

In Australia, I'd say that this type of behaviour would be very unusual. Our young people would have to be some of the most inclusive people you could find. This is not to say we don't have our bigots, but they tend to be very quiet and not that usual.

What about the anti-immigrant laws there, which I assume must be politically popular because they have been sustained. The treatment of the refugees in the detention camps is horrific and criminal.

The issue wasn't immigrants per se but the method by which they arrived. They were described as "queue jumpers", which plays against an ordinary australian's notion of fair play. The numbers of legal immigrants (including refugees) are higher than ever but since the "stop the boats" policy, the number of "illegals" has been reduced to a trickle.

That was the rationalization. My understanding is that it was crafted to exclude non-white immigrants, like Trump's immigration policies or like election law in the U.S. south, which always works out to exclude non-white voters.

Also, it doesn't address the treatment of the refugees in the camps.

Here's a timely article about Australia's friendliness toward immigration: https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21730004-and-australians...

Not really. I don't know where you live but this isn't true in Canada.

As a counterpoint to your low effort dismissal, "yes really". As a man of color, I could not talk to white girls at the primarily white public schools I attended without significant social pushback.

Even today, in 2017, I still have to watch my back if I'm seen walking with a white woman. And I live in one of the most liberal states in the US.

Just because it never happened to you, or you never witnessed it personally, doesn't mean it can't happen.

This response seriously disappointed me. Not only did you not provide data or citations of any kind, your tone comes off as morally superior/holier-than-thou. So I'll give some back to you, Canada sure seems like a swell place to live if it contains people like you.

Or maybe the Canadians are just saying that this is the internet and not everyone here is American? It may be generally true across the US. That doesn't make it automatically true "anywhere."

The GP merely said that it isn't a problem everywhere, disagreeing with the GGP. The GP didn't say that it isn't a problem anywhere.

Overlooking that misunderstanding, I think you make a valid and important point. Lots of people here are speculating about things they have no experience with or knowledge about. I'm given to understand that as a primary cause of continuing racial discrimination - people don't experience the problems directly and therefore assume they don't exist. A great example is the problems black people encounter with some law enforcement - before the cell phone videos, much of the population didn't experience a problem themselves and assumed there wasn't one. Now even Newt Gingrich talks about it.

And apparently your experience in one part of the world is completely universal and applies everywhere. You're sure reading a lot into my reply.

Not to diminish your experience, but the GGP specifically said any public school anywhere. A single datapoint is then enough to disprove that assertion.

I am half European/Mexican. I have a full beard and as a result of my heritage, I appear, for the most part, to be Iranian. I live in a city in a liberal state.

I also have an adopted daughter who is almost 100% European descent, red hair and blue eyes. I cannot go anywhere with her by myself without being questioned by people on the street, or the person at the checkout lane, or a few random passersby, about who I am, who she is, how we are associated. It pisses off my wife, who is 100% European as well, to no end.

To have her see this, or hear about what people asked me in any given day, has been a real eye opener. It's easy for people to put away casual racism (or just not allow it to surface) when some guy with dark skin and a beard shows up. That equation seems to change when I'm hauling around my daughter.

If anyone thinks that this is normal, ask yourself: would you do the same thing if you saw a white man walking around with two black or hispanic children?

The number of social disarmaments that I've had to my interactions with people since the turn of the century cause me anxiety and tension. People like to say "that wasn't the experience at my school", but repeated experiments have shown that even in highly liberalized areas with decent racial integration that in fights men with 'Hispanic' or 'Black' sounding names are thought to be more aggressive [1], and that black children receive more severe punishment at the school level, in CA and other non-southern states [2]. Toss in the fact that having a non-white name means that you are in the 50% reduced callback pile at work [3]...

What I'm trying to say is that people who argue that your experiences with race are not true are either of European descent, or they grew up in some goldilocks zone of racial integration that I've yet to experience. They also deny evidence to the contrary, and there is a lot of evidence that even though I'm not beaten up or thrown in prison, we still get the shaft to some extent in our modern society.

[1] https://www.vox.com/2015/10/9/9482537/implicit-bias-names [2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/black-students-li... [3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/jobs-search-hi...

Not where I grew up.

My wife and I met online in 1992. Not on a dating site; we were both posting to a Usenet group, alt.psychology.personality. She had posted that she was trying to figure out whether she was a Five or a Six in the Enneagram system of personality analysis. My first words to her, in a private email, were "Well, do you have a bigger problem with depression or paranoia?" Ha! How's that for a smooth come-on line?? :-)

I'll one up you on that. I arrived early at a party my now wife was organizing and she put me to work preparing food. The knife I was using was terrible and she warned me about. After using it for a while, I casually commented:

"I have much better knives at my house".

OK, it was not the first thing I said, but it didn't scare her away ;-)

BTW, I met my first wife in a chat room on a Minitel-like system.

> Enneagram system

Just googled it and found one to be surprisingly accurate for me. It may be one of those things that is so general it applies to everyone though.

any site with a text field is a dating site

> site

the year is 1992, the couple are posting to Usenet. What is this site thing you mentioned?

Get off my lawn

The year is 1984, the couple are exchanging messages via a public CeeFax channel..


Get off my dad's lawn ;)

Ceefax was read only.

You could phone up and get your message(s) included in local pages.

Also there were personals which involved writing your advert, and the ceefax service working as a PO box to route letters.

...if you are creepy enough.

That's not true for obvious reasons.

You uh... want to tell me why not over coffee later?

I'd love to :D

Nice screen name

I feel like the article is confusing meeting someone online verses using an online dating website. the former is much more common than the latter.

So which one are you - depression or paranoia? ;-)

You know what they say about crazy...

This ignores the far bigger reaching impact of online dating, that which includes some uncomfortable gender dynamics for hetrosexuals; The top percentage of men get the lions share of the dating options and presumably more frequent sex with no reason to commit to the ladies in question while lower tier men suffer disillusionment from their lack of options. The OK Cupid blog page is a filled with these sorts of nuggets, such as women rate 80% of guys as worse-looking than the medium: https://theblog.okcupid.com/your-looks-and-your-inbox-8715c0...

If you actually read the rest of that post, it says that in their actual behavior to those men that they rate as less-than-medium they're less judgmental of looks than the men:

> As you can see from the gray line, women rate an incredible 80% of guys as worse-looking than medium. Very harsh. On the other hand, when it comes to actual messaging, women shift their expectations only just slightly ahead of the curve, which is a healthier pattern than guys’ pursuing the all-but-unattainable. But with the basic ratings so out-of-whack, the two curves together suggest some strange possibilities for the female thought process, the most salient of which is that the average-looking woman has convinced herself that the vast majority of males aren’t good enough for her, but she then goes right out and messages them anyway.

But this also ignores the fact that you as a man are judged by other things that only your looks. Money, power, social status, personality to name a few. Men have a lot more strings to play when it comes to increasing their value in the "sexual marketplace".

Looks matter more than anything else, at least until you reach 8 figures of wealth or you attain some level of fame/celebrity.

I'd also hope that all of us are being progressive and judging women based on those things (especially wealth) as well. I certainly am. Need that huge combined income to comfortably afford a house and kids anywhere that I'd actually want to live, after all.

If you have 8 figures of wealth your looks are pretty secondary. But no you don't need anything like that for enhancing your chances and pushing looks further down the list. If all you do is online dating, then yes. People will judge on what they see. But in real life you have lots of possibilities to swing the pendulum in your direction.

Sorry, yeah, I did mean specifically when it comes to your appeal for online dating.

As the linked article is about online dating, you may be more right in your stance, than me trying to drag the discussion into real life dating :)

Some people certainly look for features like intelligence, wit, personality, wealth, etc, in women too. Many people, however, actively look for the opposite - someone who isn't very smart. It all depends on what you want in a life partner.

Unless you are really ugly or have a deformity looks don't matter all that much for men. They may matter more for if you get a reply or not using an online dating site but not for dating success in meatspace.

Well, when most men put in zero effort towards making themselves look attractive on their profile, then it makes it very easy for those that do to get results.

>The top percentage of men get the lions share of the dating options and presumably more frequent sex with no reason to commit to the ladies in question while lower tier men suffer disillusionment from their lack of options.

This tacitly implies that women are sex objects and that men only seek them out as such. I find that offensive, but more so than that, sad.

You'd also have to prove that online dating has 'caused' this effect, and what you've posted is a complete lack of evidence, at best.

It could simply be that many women have better career options and don't have to settle for early marriage to whichever man in a bid for financial security and social acceptance, or changing attitudes towards more casual sexual encounters, or a number of other things.

> This tacitly implies that women are sex objects and that men only seek them out as such. I find that offensive, but more so than that, sad.

I find it ridiculous that you are offended and sad. Your assumption is leaping to a cause that 'women are sex objects' for these men because they have higher date counts. Maybe they are more picky because they can be. Or is that so surprising more attractive men have more sex partners? And even if so, what is wrong with wanting to have sex? And why is this a bad thing for men here? I know plenty of women that at some point in their life who only want flings for whatever life reason.

Sorry a bit of a rant but I find this judgement about people having sex so archaic.

First off, I made no statement about promiscuity. So you're the only one talking about that. Are you sure you're replying to the correct person? Your entire judgement of my post has nothing to do with what I said.

The context was:

>The top percentage of men get the lions share of the dating options and presumably more frequent sex with no reason to commit to the ladies in question while lower tier men suffer disillusionment from their lack of options.

It is explicitly stated that more attractive men have 'no reason to commit'. This seems to be an incredibly sad statement about the possibility of having a connection with another person on levels other than sex.

edit: I don't get what's wrong with what I said here? Can someone explain.

Nothing directly “wrong”, but you seem to be judgmental towards people who have (just) casual sex, going so far as to imply they objectify women, which is a word that has a strongly negative moral connotation in today’s world. But really, there’s nothing wrong with casual sex.

They weren't judgemental towards casual sex...

If you carefully parse the original sentence ("The top [..] men get [..] frequent sex with no reason to commit") it is making the absolute statement that good-looking men have no reason to commit, implying that the only reason for commitment is securing a frequent sex partner.

They can be completely accepting of all sorts of kinky shenanigans (as I am), yet still not consider it a good idea to paint all men with the same brush.

Nope. “With no reason to...” is a contextual connector, it adds to the first statement. Your interpretation would be correct if it read “therefore have no reason to...”

Matt4077 is correct. I do not care what people do.

Alright, whatever... although, grammatically I cannot see where you get that implication

The context is "a person who has no trouble getting people to have sex with him."

The statement within that context is that he has "no reason to commit to a woman."

I guess it could be just a statement of fact. "A lot of these people, they're just doing it."

It seems sloppy to throw that contextual tidbit into the middle of an unrelated sentence. Particularly given that it is a fact that doesn't really need to be explained to anyone listening. So yeah, maybe it is just sloppy writing.

But I think that is being very generous given it would have to be superfluous information within an entirely unrelated thought, meaning the writer basically made two mistakes at once.

People also tend to use with and therefore fairly interchangeably in colloquial settings.

As somewhat more intelligent primates you can rest assured that sex is a primary male driver in seeking the attention of women, if not the only reason. Let’s not ignore a million years of biological inperative and assume a few hundred years of civilization has changed us.

This is a pop-science view of biological and psychological drivers. The reality is more complex than "everything is a thin veneer over 'let's fuck'"

"Let's fuck" is vital for continuation of a species, but it not the only reason why species might show a behaviour.


You've given a generalized historical basis for heterosexual sex, you haven't explained the nuances of a sentient being in modern society making a mate selection. Do some critical thinking about this, how do you personally decide who to mate with?

How do you assess someone else’s assessment of their consciousness as truthful? What about their blindness to the effects of their own subsconscious?

Are you suggesting that men have no reason whatsoever to seek the attention of men and that sex is the only reason for men to seek the attention of women? If so, I'm reasonably confident I can find plenty of counterexamples.

The majority of modern men who use (resort to?) dating apps are seeking companionship first and foremost, and being left wanting.

Which is fine and completely fair, of course. Not everyone deserves companionship. Not everyone deserves happiness, or even a base level of satisfaction.

> Not everyone deserves happiness, or even a base level of satisfaction.

Can you expand on that. It’s unclear what you mean by “deserves”.

No one should expect to be happy. Happiness is not guaranteed.

I agree that happiness is not guaranteed, but also think everyone deserves it, even if they don’t get it. Small distinction, but to imply that someone perhaps suffering from depression or stuck in really terrible circumstances doesn’t even deserve happiness sounds very harsh.

Why does everyone deserve happiness? That's nonsense. There are some really horrible people out there who refuse to change.

'God Almighty himself is under the necessity of being happy; and the more any thinking being is under that necessity, the nearer it comes to infinite perfection and happiness.'

There are also people who can only be happy at the expense of others

It's reality

"Deserves" is a "should"-level concept, not an "is"-level concept. "It's reality" is not an answer to why someone does or does not deserve something.

You seem to have misread the comment thread, I wasn't responding to a question

> The majority of modern men who use (resort to?) dating apps are seeking companionship first and foremost, and being left wanting.

What is your source for that claim?

No it's not fine or fair. It is inhumane.

So what should we do about it?

Not sure, perhaps you are reading too much into this statement, or alternatively you’re reframing it in the worst possible way. In any case I’d say chill out a bit.

I read it differently, as in: the most sought for men, those actively pursued by women, have more options so the date churn is higher.

Also: what’s wrong with “Just for benefits”? If both consent and agree I see nothing sad about it

>This tacitly implies that women are sex objects and that men only seek them out as such. I find that offensive, but more so than that, sad.

Extremely attractive people belonging to either sex, of all sexual orientations, do this. Extremely attractive men treat women on dating apps as sex objects. Extremely attractive women treat men on dating apps as sex objects. Happens with same-sex pairings too. Not sure why everyone is focusing on gender when it's really looks that matter the most when it comes to behavior and options.

They're objecting to the idea that there is no reason, never, for anyone good-looking to commit to anyone.

See again the original sentence: "top percentage [get] frequent sex with no reason to commit".

That sentence is simply too strong to be true. Nobody is denying that the possibility of easily finding someone for casual may cause some people to hesitate before entering committed relationships. But as it is written, it denies the existence of reasons for commitment other than to secure frequent sex.

There must be at least some people who, despite their excellent looks, top IQ, huge penis, and high political office still found a reason to commit to a partner. The previous US president comes to mind...

I think what they really meant was "no expectation to commit". Or "no need to commit".

Hopefully that poster returns to clarify.

In another reply to an indignant comment I suggested that “whith” just adds qualitative description to the first sentence, not implication. Had it been “therefore” it would be a different matter.

I am 42 and got married (for the second time) a couple of months ago. After getting a divorce I worked my butt off on okCupid to meet my wife. I made it a full time gig and I am happy with the results.

Besides finding a great life parter, one of the most surprising results is what is hinted at but not really discussed in the article. She brought a completely new social circle into my life. Although we are the same age (Roughly) and have lived in Boston for the last 20 years, the Venn diagram of our circle of friends didn't overlap.

My perception is that my social life is much more interesting at this point because of this, rather than my College friends, many of whom married their college parters.

It's still just a correlation, and there's a problem with the article:

Of course, there are other factors that could contribute to the increase in interracial marriage.... [But] “The change in the population composition in the U.S. cannot explain the huge increase in intermarriage that we observe,” say Ortega and Hergovich.

That leaves online dating as the main driver of this change.

Except there are more than two possible explanations for this correlation. For example, attitudes towards interracial marriage may have changed in the past couple decades. Therefore this is faulty logic (on the part of the author who wrote this summary, who is different from the researchers).

The study makes a good case for online dating playing a role, but it falls short of establishing it as "the main driver."

> attitudes towards interracial marriage may have changed in the past couple decades

That's an understatement. According to Gallup polls, Americans approving of interracial marriage were a minority until the mid '90s, and the last poll in 2013 showed 87% approval [1].

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/163697/approve-marriage-blacks-w...

polls like this really make you wonder though.

I know a lot of people that are "okay" with interracial marriage, but also hope their kids do not marry someone of another race.

But then again, what is the cause, and what is the effect?

So... am I missing something, or is the only evidence they cite a thin correlation between increased online dating and increasing rates of interracial marriage?

Yeah I was baffled by this article. It feels like it was more a simulation than science (observation, measurement, etc.)?

But if the researchers add random links between people from different ethnic groups, the level of interracial marriage changes dramatically. “Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” say Ortega and Hergovich.

The original paper is probably better, but this explains almost nothing to me.

Simulations can certainly be a way of doing science. Of course you have to ask how realistic the simulation is, but that's true of any model -- you always have to be aware of your simplifying assumptions.

The original paper was easy to find: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1709.10478.pdf

This is why I read the comments first. skips article

I found this article to be a good way to hone my bullshit detector. It’s a reputable source, I’m sure many people would read it and pass the conclusions on to friends without thinking too deeply. Part of the appeal of HN to me is that I can read something, form an opinion, and get immediate feedback as to what others think. I would miss that if I read the comments first.

It looks like the article commits classical "post hoc ergo propter hoc" error - if interracial marriage became more common at the same time as online dating became more common, it must be that the latter caused the former. Obviously, it could also be that people became more accepting of interracial marriages because of reasons having nothing to do with online dating - but the article does not admit such possibilities.

Yep. Also, online dating lets users filter potential partners to a much greater extent than they realistically can irl. Seem like this might actually narrow the socioeconomic spectrum that they date within...

Most dating is location based with more demand on the female side guys so guys are more likely to have less filters and accept everyone.

But the true cause is changes to views around the issue and increased globalization.

Nope, thats it. Nothing to see here.

Literally. It won't let me read with Firefox in incognito mode. Bloody idiots.

"We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.".

Huh... how can they detect that?

Subtle differences in IndexedDB handling, for one: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/31159316/detecting-preve...

Being kind of curious, I fired up Safari's "private window", and it worked fine. I don't have FF on this box, but I do repro with Chrome. The detection is in article.js, and a quick glance indicates they're checking if the cookies get disabled. It would seem that Safari does that differently than FF or Chrome, and pass the test.

Maybe not being able to store cookies?

AFAIK, Incognito modes do generally store cookies up to the point where you close your browser window.

You're right, I checked the differences between ff and ff incognito on panopticlick.com and both have cookies enabled. I think it's the blocking of trackers/invisible trackers that the website is picking up on.

On mobile, I was able to read it in incognito by using Reader mode (which disables all page CSS and Javascript.) This probably works on desktop too.

Thanks, that worked :)

I usually try that with paywalls, but this was a different enough block that I didn't think of it.

It seems to work if you disable JavaScript.

Online dating has diluted the decision making requirements of dating. Rather than getting to know someone, over time, dating websites allow us to flip through massive numbers of people. With this impression that there are massive numbers of people to choose from, it tricks us into believing we can be more selective, and dismissive of attributes. These websites, IMO, have the negative affect of giving us "too much" choice, and so people never settle or make choices, or take chances.

They don't give us too much choice. They give us the illusion of more choice. If everybody has more people to choose from, it increases the probability the people you find interesting won't be interested in you.

I disagree. Online dating empowers those at the top tier. By a lot.

While you have a point, I think the alternative, traditional option of meeting people out in the real world is rarely efficient and often closer to wishful thinking.

While I consider my social skills just fine, I'm simply not the type of person that takes action when meeting interesting, attractive people - there are just too many barriers, questions and uncertainties. Obstacles that are easily avoided when using Tinder or similar services - from there it's just conversation and up to both participants to make the most of it. I'd say the medium is irrelevant at that point.

If you have trouble overcoming barriers, questions and uncertainties then I don't think you have, what I would consider, good social skills. Good social skills includes tactfully and gracefully dealing with barriers, questions and uncertainties.

The exact same thing applies for different types of social interaction with strangers, not just looking for dates: meeting friends, professional networking, etc; There is still plenty of barriers, questions and uncertainties to overcome.

It's actually easy to get a date in social situations if you have good social skills, have good hygiene, and aren't unattractive (that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be attractive, just not unattractive). It has the added bonus of knowing beforehand that you have a base level of chemistry with someone as you aren't going to walk up to people asking for a date, you're going to chat them up first.

You are reading too much into this - my lacking motivation to deal with these uncertainties, doesn't mean that I couldn't or categorically won't. It's not that black and white. I didn't say that I have problems overcoming barriers, meeting new people or finding friends. I just think that it's a rather inefficient way to find company, particularly in a romantic way. If I'm looking for a date, I prefer opting for the method that connects me to people that clearly have similar intentions.

> have the negative affect of giving us "too much" choice, and so people never settle or make choices, or take chances.

As someone who settled and is now regretting it during the divorce, I have to ask why you think people should settle? For that matter, I'm not keen to even hook up, much less get in a LTR again soon, so I have to ask also why you think people should take chances or have to "make choices"? Life is short; too short to waste on people you obviously aren't "meant to be" with. Why not apply an aggressive filter from the start and save everyone time and heartbreak?

There is no reason to settle. It is like religion. Most people believe because of society.

That is, unless you "really" want to raise your kids. Otherwise, I'll just book to Bangkok.

That dynamic changes completely though once you get the the whole, you know, dating part. If people are merely using OKCupid as some kind of catalog to window shop with I can see your point, but the big pool shrinks dramatically once you start to interact and either receive interest or not.

Empirical data suggests otherwise -- for example, the article mentions that marriages that start from online relationships endure better than offline.

Data where? See, I've always read its the opposite (and my personal experience backs that up).

> I've always read its the opposite

Where did you read this?

I posted it here in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15454901

This is another report: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/1112414...

Contains the gem:

> The findings contradict a report from the University of Chicago which suggested that online relationships were stronger. That study was funded by the dating site eHarmony.

Good old industry funded "studies."

It'd be nice to have a citation for any of this. Do you know for a fact that people who do online dating actually have these problems at a greater rate than people who find their dates in meatspace?

Well, for one: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-bad-looks-good/2017...

This has been well studied. A quick Google search yields scientific articles and studies.

For two, http://theinformation.ischool.uw.edu/wp/2015/02/endless-love...

And many others.

A fun math question (interview?): let's say you want to meet someone and you are in a bar in SF. What are the odds?

1) The population of sf 800,000.

2) Ok, but 1/2 the population isn't into you. (male vs female). 400,000

3) Ok, but people under 20 and people over 30 you aren't interested in. A 10 (ten) year span of average age of 70. But hey we are friends here so lets do 1/5. We are down to 80,000.

4) Ok, but how many people in that time frame are not in a relationship. %10 (pulled from my facebook). Ok, that is down now to 8,000.

5) Ok, but you are into people that are physically fit. That removes %50. You are down to 4,000.

6) Crap. You like college educated people that have a job. Now you are at another %50 loss. 2,000.

7) Ok, but you are in a bar. What percent do not go into bars? %50 loss. 1,000.

8) But you are in a bar @ saturday at 8pm. People go out let's average 1 time a week (thur,fri,sat). That is another %66 loss. Down to 330.

9) You are in a particular bar. There are ~600 bars in sf., with only 330 people in SF that meet your criteria. They will not be wearing a sign.

10) So, there you are, buying $8 beer #4, standing in a bar hoping to meet someone - that statistically isn't there.

=> Online wins.

You're being overzealous narrowing the search space because you're assuming independence between these traits. In particular, you first assume we are only considering those between the ages of 20 and 30 in sf. But among young people this age in sf, I assume >%50 are physically fit (if by that you mean not fat/"normal"), >50% are college educated and have a job; also, in my experience, the percentage of people in a relationship varies hugely between the ages of 20 and 30 (from <20% to >75%). And of course, since SF is the center of an urban area, many people commute into SF to both work and have fun / go to bars.

And here's a quick sanity check: spend a day walking around a large tech company like FB or Google. You'll easily see over 330 people at each company that meet all your criteria (except perhaps living in SF proper).

Correct. Ignoring dependence caused the 2008 financial meltdown. Mortgage securities were created assuming mortgage failures were independent, when in a financal meltdown failures are highly correlated. In math terms this is difference of a product of numbers less than one or the minimum of numbers less the one. The latter can be substantially higher than the former.

For some. For me I go to a hiking or cooking event and I get 1-2 potential dates. There is a lot of noise on Tinder and similar, lots of people with interests too different from mine and lots of people that go there to just waste time. I realized the best way to find a partner was to do things I enjoyed with other people (meetup works well for this), I found my girlfriend 3-4 months after that "strategy" change.

=> Bayes theorem wins

I went through a Meetup phase (still an organizer of one) and went to a ton of meetups, met a lot of women, dated a few...but still ended up in a long term relationship with someone I met on an online dating site. Oops.

I still say going to those meetups made me much more comfortable talking to and getting to know women better, which probably allowed the relationship to progress to the point it has today (almost two and a half years now).

I know you’re being tongue-in-cheek, but this is the sort of back-of-the envelope calculation that’s easily disproven with a simple sanity check. By your math there should be only 0.5 fit, college-educated single people in your age and gender bracket in any given bar on a Saturday night. That’s obviously not the case.

One clear flaw is that the bar-hopping population is not uniformly distributed between ages 0 and 80; it obviously starts around 21 and tapers off at some point. Not to mention the fact that bars have clientele; a bar that’s popular with 20-somethings won’t be as popular with the older crowd. Fitness, age, education level, and employment status are also correlated with each other.

The solution? Keep your eyes open when you’re at the bar, and strike up a conversation. Other single people will be doing the same, greatly reducing your odds of a mismatch. Fitness, age, and gender are also relatively easy to measure on average. It takes some effort, but it’s not a complete crapshoot as your comment indicates.

"By your math there should be only 0.5 fit, college-educated single people in your age and gender bracket in any given bar on a Saturday night. That’s obviously not the case."

You left out "not in a relationship" which I would give a %90 reduction in odds. Which is a major point here. Because you see people at a bar I wouldn't assume they are single.

Jesus, much, much more than 10% of 20-30 year olds are single. In fact, more than that are still living with their parents:


>Gallup found 14% of adults aged 24 to 34 were living under a parent's roof.


> Fully 43% of adults (87 million people) say they are single.

Perhaps you’ve misread, that’s included in the ‘single’ part. Regardless, my larger point is that when you’re at a bar you’re not going to walk up to a random table and ask a guy out when he’s holding hands with some girl. People who are single and looking do just that - they look for signs that the other party may be interested. It takes some social skills, but as the original article shows a large proportion of couples meet in a bar, so clearly it’s not impossible.

Why do you think 90% of people are in relationships, especially at such a young age? I'd guess it's closer to 2/3, although I'm using anecdotal evidence.

We aren't comparing being a barfly with online dating, we are talking about online dating replacing how couples traditionally meet - which has been mainly through friends or through family.

BTW, it's pretty easy to get dates in most social places (not just bars, but bars are included) if you have good social skills. Having good social skills also makes other aspects of your life better in as well.

Problem with online dating is it seems to make people fickle and overly critical, which is the reason I gave up online dating. Few years later I meet my spouse, in a bar.

> Few years later I meet my spouse, in a bar.

Was he/she surprised to see you? That must have been awkward...(kidding, of course)

I mostly missed online dating the first time around, but after getting out of a long term relationship last year, I gave it a shot. Seemed to at least be a way to improve the statistical side of things.

I agree that it can make people fickle and critical. It often seemed as though people treated it like window-shopping on Amazon. I'd certainly never run across the phenomenon of "ghosting" in more traditional dating compared to online dating, but sure enough, you could go out with someone several times and enjoy yourself...only to have them drop off the face of the earth as their interest moved on.

I certainly didn't expect to be of interest to everyone (or even many at all) but while I can handle polite rejection as well as anyone could expect, the frequency of ghosting was a real surprise.

Still, there were positives. Went out with some lovely people who I would still consider friends or at least friendly acquaintances today. Met one person who I'm still involved with after several months. And it just felt like an interesting and more direct way to connect people specifically looking to date.

It's like being able to go to a bar or other social meeting place and then specifically ask to hang out only with people single-and-looking who you might be interested in. Doing that in the real world is a lot harder to approximate.

Why you don't just estimate the average expected occupancy of a bar?

Being San Fransisco, wouldn't the percentage of the population not into you be even higher? If you are gay you can toss out all the straight people and vice versa. And that's not even taking bi and trans into account. I would guess in SanFran only 1/4 of the population would possibly be into you.


This is an interesting train that was derailed into the boring track of race.

I'd be more interested in what the long-term genetic effects of matching up fairly similar people across larger and larger divides (distance, social circles, habits, professions, etc.) might be.

Is there evidence that we're gravitating towards "fairly similar people"? The article points to evidence that online dating is increasing the diversity of couples.

I'm speaking more in terms of traits, and working off of the assumption that like attracts like. Skin color is just a drop in the sea of traits.

No, there's the opposite. People seek out with an immune system as different as possible from their own. How? They smell differently. (Pheromones etc.).

At least that's what I remember from ten years ago or so. Not sure if the science held up.

Online dating is a godsend.

It eliminates so much of the bullshit you deal with by meeting a stranger through "common ties" (as the authors of this article put it) or in a social environment like a bar or outing. You can literally find someone that you'll highly likely be compatible with by answering a ton of questions and searching for exactly what you want.

My fiancee and I met on OkCupid, and we are proud to tell people that we met on there and how. I've been dating online for many years before I met her, and I can tell that the stigma associated with it has gone down a lot since then.

I wouldn't say that online dating completely eliminates the race problem, however. While it definitely makes it easier for people of different races to come together by dint of not having to rely on social circles to make connections, there are plenty of people that have their racial preferences set in stone. I've come across plenty of women whose profiles said that they were only interested in x (where x was usually someone white). I suppose that it's really hard for someone who's grown up in a homogeneous environment to try something else all of a sudden.

This became a lot clearer for me after we moved down to a Dallas suburb from NYC, where damn nearly everyone is white and the racial divide is really, really clear. I'm almost always the only person of color in the events I participate in with my fiancee (she is white) and I'm one of very, very few in our church (she picked it out). This doesn't bother me very much, and no-one has given me shit for looking different (except one dude who thought I was Mexican for some reason), but I do wonder how someone in an environment like this would go about getting romantically involved with someone non-white.

The article concludes that online dating is good for society because it increases the rate of interracial marriage.

Isn't online dating changing more than just the rate of interracial marriage? I suppose complex subjects can be easily simplified by looking at only one of the effects, but it doesn't help us to understand whether it is good or bad, it only gives an indication.

Dynamite, heroin, chemical weapons, fossil fuels, and refrigeration have all been argued to be good for society due to some single inherent positive effect. They all have negative effects that were unforeseen.

If we want to know what the effect would be, we would need to conduct scientific experiments and see the results.

Hmm... this article points to a lot of good outcomes but I don't see any data to back up the claims. They also say the marriages are stronger, but don't indicate the metrics they're using? I hope their conclusions are correct but doubt the methods used to come to those conclusions.

I don't think any woman I've met so far in life has damaged my self-esteem quite to the extent that services like Tinder have.

Count yourself lucky for not having run into someone with a Cluster-B personality disorder yet.

The figure in this article* is taken (without citation) from a 2012 article by sociologists Michael Rosenfeld and Reuben Thomas.

(open-access preprint: https://web.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_How_Couples_Mee...)

* Edit: The paper on ArXiv cites R&T properly, it's the MIT Tech Review piece that doesn't.

Hardest reality with online dating is realizing the competition (at least for a 30 year old like myself).

When I was in high school, I'm only competing with like 2 or 3 guys for 1 girl. In college, that increases to probably like 5-10. With online dating? Feels like 50-100.

That could be true in absolute terms, but my impression is that most of your competition can't manage much more than "hey, you're cute" come-ons or worse, so to stand out you just need not be a shallow jerk (apologies to people who are looking for shallow jerks, I'm sure they need love too). I met my last three partners online, over a spread over more than a decade, and that general pattern hasn't changed, talking to them about the people they rejected.

This single fact is one of the most important aspects of online dating.

Many years ago, a woman responded to my message with a reply that included the phrase "at least you don't sound desperate."

I had no idea what that meant, so when we met I asked her and she showed me the many messages she received from other men. It was appalling to say the least. The messages were so awful and pathetic it was hard for me to understand how low their self-esteem had to be. Message after message made it clear that these guys felt they were out of options and were desperately messaging anyone in the hopes of a lucky positive reply. What woman they thought would find this attractive, I have no idea!

Suddenly the success I was having in online dating became clear. Just being pleasant and positive was putting me head and shoulders above what I would be reluctant to call competition.


Guys, just be nice, polite, friendly and have a positive spin to your dating messages/emails etc. That alone puts you in the top 1%.

To add another anecdote to yours, as a woman dating online, the vast majority of the messages I've received from men are "hey you're cute" or worse. The messages I've received from women are much more likely to be better, but there are much fewer of them.

I don't doubt you get a lot awful messages from men. Dates have showed me their Tinder / OKCupid apps, and not only was I surprised to see just how many messages women actually do receive, but also how bad they were - generic or rude or outright creepy.

But having briefly used Bumble, where the women must message the guy first, I never received a message better than 'hey, hows it going?'.

Now honestly, I don't believe that's because these women couldn't figure out a better opener. I just don't think they needed to because most men receive far fewer messages and will reply to any match.

> But having briefly used Bumble, where the women must message the guy first, I never received a message better than 'hey, hows it going?'.

To be fair, Bumble doesn't include a lot of space for you to talk about your interests. If I can't get an idea for who you are based on a picture (yes, most guys only have one), what more can I say other than introduce myself? My go-to icebreaker is "Hi! I'm Ali. I'm bad at this."

Edit: I should also note that Bumble isn't a great dating app if you also interested in same-sex relationships. Not relevant to the parent comment, but relevant to me.

That's rather the same issue you have on online dating sites.

Can't tell you how many girls love adventures and netflix; what exactly are you supposed to work with here?

Don't forget travel and trying new restaurants!

What else could you possibly write to some stranger that you know nothing about except maybe 2-3 pictures?

You'd have to at least put some hobby or interest in your profile that I might relate to... But just asking about something very specific as a first message also sounds weird.

I really just wanna say "Hi" and see where it goes from there... What do women want?

Can you share some examples you consider good?

The vast majority of men are incredibly easy to outcompete. Start by not being an asshole to her and about 90% (or more) of the competition will be eating your dust right out the gate.

Saying "Hey, how are you?" does make me an asshole?

No, just an uncreative generic guy like the previous 99 that messaged her pretty much the same boring question earlier this week.

Can you give me an example of a "creative" message that you could send to a total stranger that you have 2-3 images of, that are not compliments regarding their looks?

It depends on the context and your intentions.

Are you in the Silicon Valley area? Don't be in the Silicon Valley area. Try New York.

If you live in Silicon Valley, consider long-distance dating. You’re a pretty good catch speaking countrywide or worldwide!

Anyway, since dating is a market for lemons (all your competition are people who can’t get a relationship) most of them are terrible at it. Women might get tired of bad messages and quit, but they won’t ignore you if you’re calm and not too thirsty.

Dating is absolutely not a market for lemon.

Surveys show the ratio is particularly bad for single heterosexual men in "Man Jose".


Online dating is all about looks first and nothing else! You better look halfway decent or your going to hate Tinder and etc. If your a minority I bet it’s not a lot of fun either!

I met my wife online. The first time I ever saw her was when I drove 3 hours to meet her. She is black and I’m not. Prior to dating online I would have probably not dated a black girl, but because of the internet I had the best thing that ever happened to me. So...I totally relate to the article.

Likewise, the first time I saw my wife was when she showed up on my doorstep after about 6 weeks of online messages 15+ years ago. Fell in love at first sight!

She's white and I'm not; although so were most of the girls I met online, so I guess that didn't change much on my end. I wanted to meet her because of the words she used and how she expressed herself made her irresistible. That she turned out to be gorgeous in person was just icing on the cake

Online dating is not just Tinder, but also questionary-heavy sites like OkCupid. "Substance, not just selfies" is their current slogan.

The questions are just lagniappe.

Try OkCupid with the "nice boy" pic for a while, then switch to one with visible abs, then let us know if you still believe their slogan.

edit: p.s. if you're online dating and don't have abs, get some.

I wonder how culture specific this is. I once read a fascinating article about the differences in taste between Quebec and French women, where the former preferred muscular men while the latter preferred thinner ones. The theory was that in France, not being muscular is perceived as a sign of belonging to a higher social class whereas having strong arms betrays that you do a physical, low-paid job; whereas in North America, going to the gym seems to be a practice which transcends social class.

EDIT: where as --> whereas

Both muscular and thin have abs so OP still has a point.

I think the woman I met five years ago would be unhappy if I reactivated my account to try a non-"nice boy" pic.

I'm best described as "average" in appearance, which of course isn't the worst place to be, but interestingly I had much better luck than my friend with better abs. Almost as if a lot of people aren't just looking for the most attractive hookup.

The questions are core to their matching algorithm. Yes, you'll get superficially better results by being white, tall and having a chiseled face or being a blond, thin and short woman, but that doesn't change the fact that you'll meet lots of girls/guys that you might or might not match with.

Yes, you end up attracting different sorts of people. What does that prove?

I look at it more as bait in a numbers game. Whether they admit it or not, sex sells for everyone. More dates means more opportunities to find someone you jive with.

I think my assumption that people are people is just as good as your assumption that abs bring a different clientele.

I think this is key - what are you optimizing for here?

It seems like people arguing here have different metrics for success in online dating.

The questionnaires and pairing algorithms used by OkCupid or Match just narrow down the pool of people to something manageable. But at the end of the day you're still filtering people in your pool based on looks more often than not. At least this has been my experience with both several years ago.

That's not true. It's also about height.

unlike in real life where ugly trolls get to date beauties?

(edit: this is just relevant to the first half of the comment)

If you're physically unattractive and you meet someone in real life, you still get to introduce yourself and give them a glance of your redeeming qualities. Online, it's "flawed you" against 100s of perfect looking guys. You don't stand a chance.

I’m not even talking about beauties ... the average looking chicks are equally coveted and possibly sought after more then the hot ones.

As an average-looking guy I've had no trouble finding women to date online. The trick is to not have a "trick" and just be a decent human being who wants to have mutually fun conversations with people. Make more friends than lovers, like anyone with their head on straight will expect of the world.

It's almost like respecting people actually counts for something in the real world.

I'm a minority and had a great time on OkCupid after I posted better pictures and made the words in my profile more interesting. Dated all sorts of people, too.

Actually even without looks, being socially distinct is probably enough to make it less fun.

I once tried to sign up eHarmony only to be rejected even before getting to a paywall. At least they are being honest they won't find any match for weirdos like me before taking my money.

>socially distinct

what do you mean by this?

I meant to say, number of social factors like religions, and other factors (I don't remember what kind of other questions it asked) perhaps made my compatibility to very small subset, perhaps to the point eliminated anyone remotely socially compatible.

I found my wife in an online chat about 10 years ago. We would never ever meet if the technology wasn't there. And it was quite easy to stand out - according to her, I was the only guy that didn't say something in the line "nice shoes, wanna fuck?".

And yes, I was looking for low-level contact with the opposite sex; but also open to a higher-level relationship if it worked out.

>“Our model also predicts that marriages created in a society with online dating tend to be stronger,” they say.

From everything I understand the data says just the opposite, that couples who met online are more likely to break up.


The article you link addresses 'couples'. This post addresses the specific subset of 'marriage'.

No, it addresses married couples too.

>8 percent of [married] online couples were separated or divorced over the course of the survey, compared to 2 percent of the couples who met offline.

It's interesting because the paper says people who meet on-line are less likely to get married in the first place, so it really paints a picture of how volatile these relationships actually are.


"To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in...

Visitors are allowed 3 free articles per month (without a subscription), and private browsing prevents us from counting how many stories you've read. We hope you understand, and consider subscribing for unlimited online access."

So like, I can just clear my browser cache to reset the counter, but you're going to nag me about closing my browser to read this one? Come on MIT

Hmmmm. The graphs are interesting, particularly the bar/restaurant line which seems to have been fairly flat until the online line flattened out, and then it had a big rise.

I wonder if that is because more people are actually meeting in bars, or because people are using social media of some sort and "meeting" in a bar/restaurant for the first time and putting that in the survey instead of "online".

Surprised the article referred to the value of weak ties without explicitly mentioning Granovetter‘s seminal paper, The Strength of Weak Ties (which applies to much more than dating): http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/225469

TechnologyReview is reporting plausible but non-peer reviewed research because being first to report is more important than reporting truth. Their "Emerging Technology from the Arxiv" needs a lightbox disclaimer warning that the contents are unverified. A lot of people here are taking the time to read, reflect, and comment on this material as if it were true.

When we launched FindDate (https://finddate.co) - a chat app network dating platform, I chose to keep it interracial by default; even though geo fencing is just a click away. Some felt it might not work.

I firmly believe that,

We cannot address racism, by hiding races. We need to give a chance to the people to mingle with people of different races to show that they are equal.

We cannot address body shaming, by hiding people of different body sizes.

This was our base principle in FindDate and from the feedback we're receiving; it looks like people are loving it.

Devil's advocate here, but how are skin color and body size any different from eye color or height preference?

The only way to do it truly fairly is to disallow any physical characteristics. By only blocking some you just change the criteria/groups who are discriminated against. But who would use a dating site where you have no idea what the other person looks like?

Better to use statistics to level the playing field by, for example, showing people with less % likes more often. This is pretty much how affirmative action works. Give people biased against by other humans more opportunity to make up for it. Lot easier than trying to fix the bias in the humans.

If you think you can make humans ignore their sexual preferences by hiding certain identifiers you're a lot more optimistic about humanity than I am. I expect the most popular openers on the site to be "r u fat?" for men and "r u at least 5' 10"?" for women. Isn't it just better if those people never talk to each other in the first place at that point?

Good question. Scientifically speaking, yes the same melanin pigment which causes skin coloration does cause the skin colouration in eye; but my context is more on social aspect of it.

People with particular eye colour aren't oppressed as much as people of particular skin color. By grouping users by location often denies them a chance to see and mingle with people of other races and that's what we would like to avoid with FindDate.

Different racial and cultural groups live in different places because people self-select for it. If you're going to build something that breaks down racial barriers you'll need to actively counter against existing bias IMO.

Less politically charged example with food.... If your service simply shows all the different kinds of food available, users will generally stick with whats familiar. If the algorithm is designed to show them mostly food they've never tried before you can counter that bias and increase the likelihood the user will try new foods.

With the context of your example,

In our case we show all kinds of food by default. The user has the choice of choosing familiar food types. If it's available it will be shown first, if not it again goes back to default mode. User preference still get's priority, but given a chance to try something new; we don't see much hesitation.

> We cannot address body shaming, by hiding people of different body sizes.

I just want to make sure that I understand you. You're saying that in your dating app, you prevent people from searching/filtering based on body size and that the reason you designed your app this way was to "address body shaming"

No, sorry. You have misunderstood. We don't prevent or contain anything. We give the option to see people not confined by locality and other parameters. It's upto the user to choose what they want.

Correction: online dating srted in the 1980s with usenet and dialup bboards.

That was more a byproduct of Usenet than an actual goal of it. It didn't really start until Yahoo! Personals in the mid-1990s.

The funny thing about social circles: I met my gf online a few years ago; after we connected I realized that I knew her PhD advisor (she studied outside California) and that a fellow student of my advisor whom I knew (I also studied outside California but in a different city from her) lived next door to her and knew her well. And we have both lived and worked in Palo Alto for the last 15+ years.

Yet despite those pretty tight connections our social circles are essentially completely disjoint.

It's going to change everything about the future, because it's going to change everyone who lives in the future. In a few generations, everyone will have ancestors who met through online dating, and therefore would not exist without it.

I don't get online dating.

Just meet people in real life and leave it up to chance, you know like it has always been since the dawn of our species...

Can you imagine a shakespeare play 500 years from now where one of the major characters is an algorithm? Geez.

I am really curious about that bump in the 80's.

Have you seen Halt & Catch Fire?

According to the article Tinder has 50 million users. Is 50 a million a significant sample considering that the world has 6 billion people?

A sizable chunk of that 6B are people that don't live in a society that is structured for online dating (undeveloped region, arranged marriages, etc)

“Our model also predicts that marriages created in a society with online dating tend to be stronger,”

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