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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things I've Noticed About Online Dating #3: Playing the Percentages

The site I use for online dating matches you up with other users on three levels. The chance that you would be suitable romantic partners is listed as the Match %, the chance that you would get along is listed as the Friend %, and the chance that the two of you would engage in a protracted battle for the soul of mankind, using your extraordinary abilities for either good or evil, is listed as the Enemy %.

Now I’ve been known to have a pessimistic, cynical aspect to my personality (I know, I know, you’re shocked) so maybe I’m just being overly negative when I say that these percentages are, to put it mildly, a crock of shit.
For one thing, there are an inordinate number of women with whom I’m listed as having 90%, even 95%+ chemistry. Now, I’ve met and talked to many real, live women, and I can assure you that there are not untold multitudes of females that similar to me. (I’m not in any sense of the term bragging when I say this. It’s just that people are infinitely varied and complex, and it’s absurd to think there are people who are that similar to us, unless we’re talking genetically, in which case we’re all at about 99.9%+.)

The way these percentages are derived seems to stem mostly from answers to survey questions, some of which are asked by the site itself, while others are posted from members (these tend to be either more ridiculous, more explicitly sexual, or usually both.) The problem is that so many of the questions are base-level personality questions, meaning you’re guaranteed to have the same answer as wide swaths of humanity. It’s really easy to build up a high level of compatibility even with people you would hate in real life. Happily, we live in a world where prejudice is on the wane, or at least it’s a world where people realize they shouldn’t be admitting their prejudices in a public forum. So does it really mean anything to a prospective relationship or friendship if two people both think gay marriage is ok or evolution should be taught in schools? Probably not, although I suppose it could be useful to screen out the proudly bigoted and ignorant.

One thing I really wish I had the answer to is how differently are Friendship % and Match % calculated. Because the numbers are often widely divergent. I guess I can wrap my head around the idea that some people are much likelier to be friends than mates, but how is someone a 93% Match with only 78% Friendship. Is there a fifteen percent chance I’ll be a relationship with this person but just not like them very much?

Never mind, I think I understand it now.

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