The Numbers Game

26 06 2010

Long-time online pal Dave Rogers is doing the online dating “thing” as am I. We are using different services but we seem to have reached the same conclusion: It’s a numbers game.

As Dave is wont to say, technology doesn’t change what we do, just how we do it. We seem to have differing views on how much technology we need close at hand (he says, blogging) but yes, neither of us could be thought of as technophobes. So it should not have shocked me to learn that he was trying his hand at online dating.

I am aware that I am taking something of a risk writing publicly about my online dating experiences, as potential dates may read this article (hi, potential date!), but I have stressed my desire for honesty and open communication and perhaps this will underscore those claims.

To to come clean a bit, I am using two services: OK Cupid (free) and eHarmony (monthly fee). I started using OK Cupid first (around February 2010) but I wanted to try a for-fee site to evaluate the difference (OK Cupid is constantly issuing propaganda about how much better their site is) and perhaps capitalize on a wider dating pool.

Here is my thumbnail review of each service:

OK Cupid

Pros: There is a wealth of information up front (usually) about the would-be match, including age, height, body type, occupation, religion, number of children (if any), and thousands of multiple-choice interview questions to pick from. The site allows the posting of 10 photos with captions. Since the site is free members can jump right in and either send emails through the service or use their proprietary IM client. Major cities seem to be well represented. Matches are rated on a percentage basis for being “matches”, “friends”, and “enemies”. In theory, someone could fall short (on paper) of being a romantic match but you could match up well as friends, which is helpful if you are seeking activity partners, like someone to go with you to an art museum because you don’t want to go alone but it doesn’t have to be a “date”.

Cons: Spammers are starting to creep in. I was hit up by a spammer about 15 minutes into signing up for the service. I don’t like the word choice of “enemy” for a non match because for example, I won’t match someone 100% who has not visited someone in jail, whereas I have. That person is not my “enemy”. I think the idea is to turn you off to non-matches (according to the service) and push you toward more compatible people. The down side is, if someone answers as little as one match question and we both selected the same answer, that’s a high 90% match. It can be frustrating to determine who is compatible “on paper” and I am less likely to hold the match % rating as Gospel. Lately, I am being told by the site that various women are high matches only to reveal that these future wives haven’t been on the service for months. And they razz other services for making you “flirt into the void”!

The Dates: I have been on a few dates via OK Cupid, and nobody has “stuck” yet but that’s okay. I think it is a good thing to get out and meet new people. I haven’t run across any raving lunatics and I don’t think I have creeped anyone out either, but “the one” remains elusive. So as for the “quality” of OK Cupid matches, bearing in mind that I might be doing a bang-up screening job, I think the service attracts a good crowd but seems to be best in major cities.


Pros: The service touts its “29 degrees of compatibility” (paraphrased) in their TV spots and while it can be unnerving to not know how that was determined in a potential match (see “cons” below) there does seem to be some truth to this claim. There is a rather large dating pool and while I can’t deem it a sure bet for small town America, it might hold more promise than the much smaller pond that is OK Cupid. My theory going into this experience was that paying for a dating service should not only convey a degree of seriousness about commitment, but attract commitment-minded singles as well. Again, in the short time I have been using the service (about a week) eHarmony seems to have a well-stocked pond of compatible matches. My sister used the service a few years ago and had an awful experience but she agreed that it seems to be more “progressive” these days and my 14 matches in 2 days eclipsed her 3 over many weeks – and she lives in the Chicago metro area. I have noticed that eHarmony fudges the parameters of “compatibility” but nothing way wide of the mark.

Cons: There’s not much “there” there. eHarmony doesn’t provide much space to write a compelling profile and it is worse when potential matches don’t answer all of the questions, which is the express train to getting “archived” (you can put the match aside and eventually close it as “mutually not interested” if the spurned match initiates the closing process). Fewer photos seem to be allowed and it is the exception to see clear, “large” photos. Many are the size of a postage stamp. As noted above, when a match doesn’t seem patently obvious it would be nice a la OK Cupid to dig deeper and find out why we are alleged to be a good fit. Some profiles can be off-putting or intimidating (MUST be a decorated astrophysicist!) but my retort is that we supposedly would not be matched up if we had nothing in common whatsoever. It would be nice to see how rather than take a shot in the dark every time. eHarmony uses a 4-step guided communication model which also seems off-putting to me, as First Contact amounts to a 5-question multiple-choice survey. It is possible to bypass the strict model and cut right to a free-form message, but for now I am trying the guided approach and will change up tactics if I can’t get anyone to talk to me.

The Dates: Well, I am new to the site but have met one person “live”. We seemed to be an excellent match “on paper” but we didn’t make it past the first date. I was knocked back a bit by this initially, but recovered quickly by reasoning – wait for it – that this is ultimately a numbers game and it would be quite the odds-breaker if I met “the one” less than a week into using eHarmony, or any other dating service. I am not giving up on the site and hope future meet-ups will be more positive.

Words of Wisdom

Take these with a grain of salt, but:

  • “Bisexual” on a woman’s OK Cupid profile is what “prefers to wear stockings” is to the guys on the BBC show “Coupling”.
  • The profile’s the thing. I really need to punch mine up at both sites, but as a man, I don’t like to see one-word grunts in a woman’s profile in lieu of helpful information, and in turn we men have to be more verbose too.
  • I have been told by many women that they can receive several “junk” photos a day. A day. I usually quip that at Craigslist that’s the “profile” photo, insofar as Craigslist can be called a dating service. I was thinking today what the female equivalent of a “junk” photo would be and have concluded that it would be a “boobs” shot, either bra-clad or bare. Except here on Mars, if I had an inbox full of “boob” photos from random women I’d be high-fiving my fellow Martians and soaking up the envy, whereas on Venus those pictures get passed around to reinforce that “men are pigs” and that’s the sort of crap you have to wade through to prove you’re better than those losers. Thanks a lot, guys.
  • A dating profile isn’t a flytrap. You don’t just post it and wait for the women to pile up in your inbox begging to spend time with you. You’ll have to engage them directly, and even then you’re not guaranteed the time of day, and really need to know when to cut bait (as t’were) rather than come off as a creep.


Well, like Dave Rogers says, it’s not about what you do but how you do it. I needed to get out more and TTP (talk to people), and failing that, TTMP (talk to more people). I decided to use online dating services because I liked going into this experience with “pre-qualified” matches, as in, you’re all single (you hope) and want to date somebody. Beats hanging out in bars or something hoping to bump into a single woman that wants to talk.

As the World Cup is upon us, I was thinking recently about what some soccer analyst was saying during an MLS match a few years ago about what it is like to be a forward in pro soccer. For every 10 runs toward the goal, you might get the ball at your feet once. For every 10 times you have the ball at your feet, you might take a shot at the net once. And for every 10 shots at the net, you might get one “on frame” once.

So yeah, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet your soul mate one week into online dating.

Or any dating.

But it’s worth a shot, right?




One response

27 06 2010
Dave Rogers

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I hadn’t connected my own “how we do things, not what we do” construction with the dating game. But you’re right.

Go me!

So far it’s been an interesting experience. And I’m probably learning as much about myself as I am about potential matches. Which seems like a plus.

Good luck! And we’ll have to compare notes sometime…

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