Going to take this one in a new direction because I was finding it hard to write about crypto today. Sure, I could have written about Globalcoin, the new facebook cryptocurrency. I could have written about LEO and its stupid name (UNUS SED LEO…catchy) as well as the rise of IEOs across the board, but that really wasn’t getting the juices flowing. Instead, I’m going to write what I know, and what I know is algorithmic dating.
To preface, I am a single dude, I’ve been in a few relationships, but what always throws people is that the vast majority of my dating, since the age of 18 has been online dating. I tend to rationalize it as “well, I grew up online, and it’s where I spend most of my time, so it’s only natural.” Over time, I have realized that I far prefer it. This normally causes people to think I have no self confidence and have difficulty meeting or approaching women in real life. This cannot be further from the truth. In reality, I have a bit too much confidence, cartoonishly so. Women irl find me decently charming, I am handsome enough that I don’t feel intimidated upon approach, and I can hold a conversation.
Why then do I prefer online dating?
At first, I thought it was the convenience. You go online, late at night, send out a few dozen messages and then after a few weeks, the time spent coming up with creative quips begins to pay off. Women respond, you set up a few dates and voila. Really, it couldn’t be easier. Plus, there’s a fun involved in crafting a brand for yourself. You come up with the angle you’re going to pursue, then tailor your profile to match. As long as you’re not particularly invested in the results, all outcomes are positive.
I have enjoyed trying out all of the dating apps, some of them are pretty awesome a prime example would be OkCupid during the late 00s to early 10s. The platform was free, there were a ton of people on there and a lot of ways you could distinguish yourself from that pack. To top it off, women were eager to meet irl. Then there are platforms that are absolute hot garbage like Bumble. Overtime, like with most things on the internet, the options converge, and we all end up on the same platform. In this case, Tinder.
Since the 2016 election, there has been a very turmoltuous conversation about the role social media companies play in censorship of information on their “platform.” All of these companies to some degree alter the results based on their algorithms, the 2016 election prompted many to push back and demand these companies take a firm stand regarding the content on their applications. While the internet has been the deciding factor in all presedential elections since Barrack Obama in ’08 (remember Obama girl?), it’s recently come to everyone’s attention just how important memes and algorithmic feeds are to the outcome of elections. The algorithms of Google, Twitter, FB etc. will all literally decide the elections.
The algorithmic feed has far more implications than simply our political lives. The feeds filter what information and which people we come into contact with. Any application that sorts humans and our creative output algorithmically has far reaching consequences to our social organization. This line of reasoning has led me to ask the question:
What is the effect of this on our dating life?
This graph commonly floats around the internet and demonstrates the rate of matches on Tinder. Generally, since Tinder is a laisse-faire system and it’s a seller’s market (women exert the most power in the dating space), if you’re the average guy, you’re screwed. If you’re a Chad, then you have endless options.
If you look at this, as if it’s an accurate depiction of human sexuality, then you would likely be horrified at your dating prospects. However, if you’re like me, you would see this is very similar to the algorthmic news problem stated above.
On all dating platforms, women have a similar dating habit. A small group of men is considered attractive and they have the best “luck.”
There’s a heavy Pareto Distribution seemingly in effect, which illustrates how dating operates in much the same way as an economy. Since microeconomics is in large part the study of human behavior, it’s to be expected dating operates similarly. You could view this as an intractable problem; you could view this as a problem stemming from capitalism’s evil influence on our social behavior; or you can view this as I do, an algorithmic issue.
An algorithm is defined as: a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.
If you consider “dating” as a problem to be solved. Pairing a person with someone else, then you can see dating has always been algorithmic. In real life, the dating algorithm changes depending on which phase of life you’re in. If you’re in high school, it’s develop social presence –> ask girl out awkwardly –> find ways to rendezvouz in order to make-out. If you’re in college, it’s similar, but now the supply of women has increased significantly, so the algorithm has shifted. Develop a niche –> Netflix & Chill. The college dating social sphere is one of monopolistic competition. You are all pretty much the same broke kid regurgitating ideas you’ve heard and offering the same awkward sex and emotional inepitude, so the only real differentiating factor is “branding.” You can be an art bro, a preppy frat star, or whatever your vibe is. It doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is that you have SOMETHING. This is why there’s a discrepancy in college. Only some “brands” work.
When you enter the “online” world, this monopolistic competition is exascerbated into pure branding. There is infinite competition. You are not only competing with the 18yo frat star, but the 45 year old C-level exec. As a woman in the dating sphere, you are inundated with options. Far too much supply. Due to the ineffeciency of our primate brains, we end up with choice paralysis. Over time, the dating sphere has converged into what we have now. What is quite possibly the most brilliant dating app in history: Tinder. Brilliant in the sense that it hijacks male and female psychology perfectly. It presents women with endless adoration and options– feeding female narcissism–as well as, presents men with endless objects of interest fueling male fomo and desparation.
Maybe in the future, I will explain my ideas on dating apps and why apps like Tinder and the old OkCupid worked, while Bumble is abysmal and destined for failure. For now, I want to explore the tinder algorithm.
Tinder has changed its algorithm recently and it hasn’t been particularly open about what the change entails. I know it creates a preference for users who are online and close in proximity. It supposedly doesn’t use the ELO anymore (the chess ranking system), so things are wonky and I haven’t completely figured it out.
What is interesting about Tinder is that to some extent it uses machine learning on your swipes. While it isn’t perfect at the moment, Tinder keeps track of who you’re swiping and creates a pattern so that it can suggest people you may like in the future. This begins to create a similar result as an echochamber (the phenomena online where algorithms only show you information that confirms your bias). Furthermore, the algorithm has to serve all of its users as best it can, and those at the “top” can’t get all of the outcomes, there has to be some non-superstars peppered in. At some point, the algorithm is going to reach a point (if it’s not there already) where it will understand with high probability who will be paired with whom. We are actually entering a phase of history where there may be “The One.” Though, it’s likely more like, “the dozen.”
As the online/offline divide is bridged. As the internet is integrated into our daily life even more, these algorithms will have a more severe impact in our dating lives. In large part, it’s already the deciding factor in who we interact with, in what information we see, ergo what people “appear” to us. This “visibility” is not solely “online” visibility, but “offline” as well. These echochambers influence our perception of social signals, so when you combine socialization with the reality that is algorithmic dating, it will quickly be the algorithms that give us what we want.
Remember my previous conversation about “branding?” The echochambers which are erected around your online presence will color all of your interactions. Let’s take the modern dating landscape as an example. Let’s say you’re deep in left-wing internet. There is a lexicon, set of social assumptions, and a presentation that reads “left wing.” The space is heavily female dominated, there is a mandatory understanding of gender and race politics otherwise you’re not viable. I could pull a tinder profile out at random that exemplifies the game you need to play in order to survive in that realm.
“bi, poly, kinky. Currently in an ethically non-monogamous relationship” etc. etc.
Generally, there’s a necessity to “queer” your branding. Even if you’re straight, it’s important that you demonstrate some level of androgeny or a willingness to blur the boundaries of masculinity if you’re a male.
Similarly, there’s a social presentation for right-wing dating. Usually, there’s push to demonstrate primal behavior in some way. Carnivorous intake, muscluarity, guns, etc. Women will often demonstrate more demure behavior or reference their interest in sports or show a picture with them wielding a rifle or a boomerang of them shooting a pistol at a range.
It’s all social signalling.
These social signals are opaque–if not wholly repulsive–to those who are not part of that demographic. This degree of social signalling will only continue to diverge. The Overton Window politically is decreasing, and I believe soon this phenomena will begin to create major divergence socially. Now, I also believe this social divergence is mostly decorative. The volume has increased because we’re actually becoming far more free and there are fewer real and fundamental differences between us, but I digress.
Alain de Buton argues that romantic love is the worst thing that ever happend to us. This is the idea that we will find someone based on our emotional fancy and can decide the exact person that is right for us in this world. In reality, we choose people that remind us of the love we received from our parents; a love that is “visible.” We have no idea how to pick people for ourselves. There’s probably no coincidence that the rate of divorce has skyrocketed. It’s also probably no coincidence that couples in arranged marriages report similar levels of happiness with their spouse, as couples in romantic marriage. We’re like children hoping for the decision to be made for us, and very soon, it will be.
Are we losing anything in this new era of dating? There are of course some warm fuzzies present in approaching someone in person and asking them out. I am sure this wil still occur, but I can’t see this cold approach working in quite the same way when the average person has a heads-up display that shows you the social score of the person you approach or their crypto wallet (it’s a public ledger afterall). As we retreat further into the dark forrest of the internet, deeper and deeper into our echochambers, the social sphere is going to splinter even further than already has. We are going to see a stark divergence when it comes to social signals pushing us back into the tribes we all truly long for, but this time, digitally.