sex & relationships

Can dating by numbers really lead to true love?

Written by littlegoode

It’s a sad but true fact that 1 in 3 relationships now start online.

It’s a sad but true fact that 1 in 3 relationships now start online. As students we’re probably not signing up to, yet a staggering number of us are on Tinder, with over 100 million matches already and (apparently) fifty marriages proposals. The hype about online dating is definitely growing, but how clear are the statistics we’re being given about online matchmaking?

According to the BBC more and more dating agencies are looking at the possibilites of number crunching in order to find your perfect partner, reducing yet another aspect of our lives to 1’s and 0’s. This is an experience many of us will be familiar with purely vicariously through the life of Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother – Love Solutions, anyone?

But can creating mathematical algorithms really gurantee finding love?

How it works

Currently, all dating sites ask a range of questions to their members. Some ask as few as three, others up to a staggering four hundred. These responses are then fed ino a computer and used to try and match people with similar interests. Some dating websites estimate they have close to 70,000 gigabytes of data about their customers, all whirring away on a database hoping to be matched.

Gradually, more and more websites are asking for a look at people’s Facebook pages or even their internet history (for whoever isn’t ashamed to share) to try and get a more accurate of what people like and what they spend their time doing. One particular website even believes taking a look at people’s Amazon purchases and LoveFilm habits can only increase the chances of a good match.


But there is a big challenge facing all dating apps and websites, and one that is difficult to combat – the basic human lie. We’re all prone to embelleshing things about ourselves to make us more attractive to other people, especially people we don’t know. And no matter how smart a computer is, if given false information you will end up with a false match.

But, without agreeing to give a dating site complete access to all your true and private information, how can you guarantee that anyone is ever going to know the real you? As one specialist points out, we all lie, often without even knowing it.

For example, you might think your iTunes library is full of mostly classical music, but that’s just a perception based on what you think you like. In fact, there might be more Katy Perry on there than anything else, and that, in short, is a lie.

The solution

One expert at the University of Iowa had devised an algorithm based on the idea of ‘collaborative-filtering,’ which basically means he believes he can match human partners without asking them any questions about themselves at all.

Instead, people are monitored while they browse a dating websites, and their behaviour as a result of receiving messages or seeing certain people’s photos seem to say a lot about them. Reccommended partners can then be suggested to you, the same way movie websites or clothing websites suggest items you might like.

In theory, this will save people a lot of time that they may not want to put into a dating website, and saves them trying to come up with interesting answers for their profiles. But is matching people based purely on the things they look at too simple a way to go about it?

Of course, it’s more scientifically and mathematically developed than that, but fundamentally what it does is save people from having to truly get to know each other. Like Ted Mosby, you could wind up with a 9.6 match, but in reality you find you don’t have a thing in common.

Like the founder of dating site OkCupid, I am inclined to believe that online magic will still never be able to compete with the basics of human attraction. After all, you might find yourself matched with someone who has the same taste in music as you, but when you meet them you don’t feel any spark at all.

What do you think? Can dating sites trump human interaction? Have your say in the comments section below.