The Science of Dating Sites?

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There are so many online dating sites and while all aim to match people to their supposed other halves, others function on a more, ahem, biological or primal level and even those are similarly dubious. Now that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, there are various news segments devoting themselves to mentioning the ‘best’ or ‘better’ way to find oneself a partner. There you think that sex or requesting sex is more honest than playing with romantic feelings and aspirations, but even the sex can be below par.

Many dating sites, which I won’t name (to avoid the spam mail/link exchange requests), proclaim a near scientific formula to their match making process. Some go to the extent of DNA matching. But what is the true success rate? Basing it all on my on past experiences, I’d say success also depends on the success one wants. Admittedly, I’ve lived part of my romantic life on a self-fulfilling prophecy basis or an everyday version of 10 Ways to Lose a Man without being as glamorous as Kate Hudson.

From many research papers I’ve read, on ‘matching and mating’, people are still wired to form stereotypes and despite all the dating sites requiring somewhat more substantial profiles or those profiles that go beyond looks, sites like Beautiful People Dot Com strictly operate on looks alone, allowing their members to form a judgmental mob, which goes way beyond individual stereotyping. Many psychologists will mention the purpose of stereotypes. For millennia, humans are using stereotypes to make quick judgments, and such judgments relate to personal safety. You’re in a tribe, foraging for food and hear a weird noise. You come across another person, a foreigner, and although they have the same physical features as you do, they’re from another tribe. You have to make a rapid judgment. Do you stay and talk or do you run? If there has been talk about a dangerous tribe that wears particular attire, you’ll look at their attire to see if they’re from that tribe. If they are, you run. If we return to evolution, humans like animals have evolved to appraise danger in similar ways and many of us appraise human traits using stereotypes to this day. It sure as hell explains casual sex, or ‘lust at first sight.’

Humans, like other species, need to feel that they are part of a group, and as villages, clans, and other traditional groupings have broken down, our identities have attached themselves to more ambiguous classifications, such as race and class. We want to feel good about the group we belong to–and one way of doing so is to denigrate all those who who aren’t in it. And while we tend to see members of our own group as individuals, we view those in out-groups as an undifferentiated–stereotyped–mass. The categories we use have changed, but it seems that stereotyping itself is bred in the bone.


Sites like Beautiful People aside, people still make fast judgments, and -sorry to say- to their benefit. I’ve come across stories about prolonged online relationships that have ended in fraud via Nigerian scam emails, featuring eloquent men who take older women for a financial ride. There is also time wastage maintaining personal profiles across the worldwide web. Think MySpace, Facebook, eHarmony,Twitter, and spending time -daily- on these social networking sites?

It’s not as simple to say that stereotypes are positive all the time. They’re like a primitive remnant. According to the same Psychology Today article:

“When we use stereotypes, we take in the gender, the age, the color of the skin of the person before us, and our minds respond with messages that say hostile, stupid, slow, weak. Those qualities aren’t out there in the environment. They don’t reflect reality.”[source]

Now reality is a key word. Dating sites often don’t reflect reality. Take Beautiful People Dot Com. How are all the profiles really validated on that? How do members know that other members aren’t taking a leaf out of the Madonna school of photography and using Photoshop to create stupendous fantasy images of themselves that eradicate two decades off their visage?

Stereotypes work in two ways, but I tend to lean on the side of them being  useless in the complex web of information relating to partner selection. They’re more useful in assessing that strange bump in the night.

Image: Angelica Marken, available from SexyArtGallery.

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