Some of you may have heard that a few weeks ago, OK Cupid sent out a press release admitting to having conducted a dating experiment on their website. They deliberately mismatched users who were horrible for each other to test out their technology and see if the power of suggestion outweighs actual compatibility. Basically, they took people who only had a 30% match rate, displayed it as being 90%, and waited to see what happened. Let’s face it, when we receive new matches in our inbox all we look at is their profile, and the percentage. I’ll bet that seldom do users actually go through the quiz results to see how their answers reflected those of the person the computer program was saying they were a perfect match with. As online daters, we (mostly) trust the system, only this time, the system was playing a fun little game on us!
Looking back on the last few months of my OK Cupid account, I can admit that I did receive some matches that made me scratch my head. Guys who I would not normally have anything in common with were suddenly top rated matches, and people who were way out of my age parameter were showing up. I haven’t been a very active OK Cupid user lately, but this admission did catch my attention and made me think about how much weight we put on these websites. While I do have a mind of my own, I would message a guy with a 90% match rate even if, at first glance, his profile was not appealing to me. The experiment found that even though it might have been a terrible match, more people sent messages and follow up messages if they had a higher match rating. We seem to have convinced ourselves that these people were good for us based purely on a (potentially hugely inflated) number! Oh dear.
Another interesting experiment occurred on January 15, 2013 or “Love is Blind Day” as they referred to it. For one day, all photos were removed from the website and conversations were tracked. The results showed that people had deeper, more meaningful conversations with no photos in play, but once the pictures we’re revealed, 2,200 people in blind conversations stopped talking to each other. This particularly fun test did not happen to me, because I do not respond to messages without a photo and I can’t even remember if I logged in that day (since I am addicted, I probably did). Maybe I’m shallow and superficial, but attraction is as much on the outside as it is on the inside and I like knowing what I am getting into. I don’t mean to imply that all users ended up being “ugly” or not attractive to the opposite side, but imagine talking to a guy or girl and falling in love with their words, only to find out they possess none of the physical attributes you find attractive in a partner. I mean, c’mon, they could have a tattoo on their face (unless that’s your thing. In which case, good for you). I think that was the sneakier test that Ok Cupid pulled. In a world obsessed with beauty, to strip someone of the ability to decide if someone is physically attractive is a crazy idea but it truly does force them to find out other attractive things about the person beyond their six pack abs and bulging….biceps.
So how did the public feel about this? Outrage, obviously. Outrage seems to be the preferred emotion lately, and it the press release was met with some harsh words and criticism from users. Ok Cupid, on the other hand, really gave no f’s and refused to apologize for what they did, and I don’t think they should have to. At its heart, it was a harmless trick played on a bunch of users who subscribe to a free dating service. If it were a service that you pay for, there could be legal ramifications, but for a free online site, all they did was stir the waters a bit. And isn’t dating all about meeting new people? Everyone says they want to meet new people they wouldn’t normally encounter in their daily life, but then freak out when they are shown people they would not normally encounter in their daily life. At the end of the day, Ok Cupid is not a paid site and they can’t afford fancy advertising like the other sites can, so this stunt put them on the map on a global news and internet scale. All this being said, if anyone in the comments section knows someone with a face tattoo please send them my way. I’d actually love to meet someone with the guts to pull that off!
Do you think you were affected by the dating experiment? Would you be upset if you were? Comment below!