OkCupid asks members to answer questions that other members have written, and uses the answers to find good matches. Because anybody can write a question, the topics are not limited to smoking preferences and pet ownership, but cover the entire range of human activity. Have you been in prison? Would you prefer to go to a movie or a musical? How often do you shower? Do you like trying new foods? Should flag-burning be illegal?
The OkTrends blog studies this trove of data in the aggregate to derive some fascinating conclusions about dating in general and our society as a whole.
Consider The Case for An Older Woman. We see here, for example, what ages men prefer their partner to be.
Based on their “allowable match” settings, men are perpetually okay with women a little older, but are reluctant to give up on dating a young woman.
More importantly, the heat map shows whom men are actually contacting, with green areas indicating lots of messages. A 30 year-old man will say he’d only date someone 22 or older, but he “spends as much time messaging teenage girls as he does women his own age.”
Read the full article to see how women’s preferences compare.
OkTrends also translates data into practical advice for finding a match. For example, see Exactly What to Say in a First Message.
It’s heartening to see that messages with “netspeak” (like “ur” and “ya”) tend to elicit responses less than 10% of the time, compared to an overall average response rate of 32%. The word “sexy” also discourages replies, while non-physical compliments like “fascinating” encourages them. “Atheist” gets answers, but “God” does not. And discussion of specific interests (“vegetarian” or “zombie”) goes a long way.
Finally, the blog dissects some of the implications of its data for our society at large, in posts like The Democrats are Doomed, or How a “Big Tent” Can be Too Big.
I like in particular this depiction of social vs. economic beliefs. Perhaps we lose sight of our ideals as we get older?
Some of these broader conclusions suffer from the flaw that we can see only a snapshot in time. People who are 50 today grew up under different conditions than people who are 20 today, and may favor their economic beliefs (for example) for reasons other than their age. It’s fascinating either way.
Even though I’ll never need an online dating site again (nor any other form of dating, for that matter), I’ve still subscribed to this blog.