Online dating in “The New Yorker.”

The recent article on online dating in The New Yorker by Nick Paumgarten was most interesting for its research. I had never heard about the history of online dating, and I was certainly not aware of the complicated algorithms that underpin the search process. He explained it all in a really interesting and accessible way. He also interviews many of the creators of on line dating, such as those behind Ok Cupid and Helen Fisher (who created the intake forms for Chemistry.com). The article is much more about the mechanics behind online dating than a real look at the experience of it.

Paumgarten only includes a few anecdotes of online daters which seem rather negative. He interviews two women in detail. The first is an older woman of 76 who speaks about the experience as being disheartening and containing a system whose code she can’t crack. The second tells him about going to Brazil after a few interactions with a man and having it end badly, though she claims she would do it all again for the thrill of the adventure. This is hardly a well-rounded selection. His attempt to represent the positive side of the experience includes one line. He says, “The success story is the standard of the genre”, but in direct opposition to that point he seems to focus on the fact that the internet is overpopulated by available women and a limited supply of men. This also seems to skew the whole depiction, as does his focus on older men choosing younger women. The beauty of the whole process is that is epitomizes self selection.

Thankfully, he was transparent about his lack of personal dating experience both online and off. He explains that he has been on only two dates and one of them was with his wife. As someone who has been married most of his adult life and chosen a mate probably more on access than on analysis, his view is certainly limited, though his research is worth the read.

More on this in my next entry…