Is love really in the numbers?


When it comes to online dating, almost everyone I know, friends and clients alike, want to know the answer to this one question: If my goal is a long-term relationship and/or marriage, which online dating tool gives me the best chance of success?
Of course, “success” can be defined in many different ways — from finding the confidence to get out there again to finding a spouse — but in this case, we’re specifically talking about entering long-term, committed relationship.

The more “traditional,” profile-centric matching sites like eHarmony and boast complicated matchmaking algorithms that take into account things like your preferences and lifestyle to determine the best potential mates. Yet, often times, users wonder whether the money, time and effort that go into the process are worth it.

According to a new survey by Consumers’ Research, the answer might just be yes.

The organization took a poll of several hundred users from across the United States (which, as a former economist, I have to doubt the statistical significance of this) to find out more about their online dating experiences. They measured a variety of factors, including the type of relationship respondents were seeking, online dating sites used (Match, eHarmony, OkCupid or Tinder), the average number of daily contacts made through these sites, and the length of successful relationships resulting from connections that were first formed online.

Tinder and OkCupid, both owned by The Match Group (formerly still under the conglomerate, IAC), came out on top as far as popularity, with a whopping 72 percent of the respondents reporting use of one or the other. Roughly half of the respondents reported that they ended up in relationships for at least some period of time. That’s nothing to stick your nose up at. But, there’s more…

There was a stark contrast in the longevity of relationships between the online dating sites surveyed. Fifty-two percent of users entered into relationships (wow — more than half!), of which 38 percent lasted longer than a month. Tinder users had the least amount of success with ending up in relationships of any duration, and also fared the worst in terms of longevity, with only 13 percent reporting relationships lasting over a month.

So what does this mean for long-term dating success?

Given the sheer volume of users on apps like Tinder, one might assume that the probability of meeting a desirable mate would be significantly greater. But, according to Match CEO Sam Yagan, having the right data is the key to compatibility:

“I would say the larger the pool you have to select from, the more likely you are to find the most compatible person for you, if you have the right algorithms working on your behalf. If you just have a very large search pool, and you don’t have good data, then you’re just fishing in a big pond and you don’t have any way to know that you’re going to get a good catch.”

So it would appear that if you’re looking for long-term commitment, there’s something to be said for those complicated formulas and algorithms.

While the algorithms on the various online dating sites are proprietary, and we’ll never fully know what goes into them, they just might give you the edge you need when selecting your potential matches. If you have 100 choices and can’t differentiate between any of them, then finding someone compatible might be a futile effort. But, what if you’re given those same 100 choices, and this time they are ranked in order of most compatible, according to the algorithm, to least? Then, assuming those factors used to calculate it are, indeed, important to you, your likelihood of finding a better match is greater, thereby allowing for a better fit and a longer-term relationship.

All of this said, it’s important to keep in mind that any site can be used for anything you’re looking for. The New York Times recently featured an article about married couples who found love through Tinder, despite its reputation for being a “hook-up app.”

Can the algorithms find you a better partner? Maybe. Can they save you time when looking? You bet.


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