Why We’re Still Single, Part I

I can’t shake this feeling that access to online dating is actually making it more difficult for men and women to find love. I know that sounds counterintuitive, especially from a market perspective, but what should have been a useful tool to encourage matching has encouraged a response that is best described as “relationship greed”. And that effect has left many singles still searching long after they would have found a partner on a traditional dating market.

Online dating sites like to claim that they effectively help singles find love. The problem with evidence that supports that claim is that its metric is the share of married couples that met online – that is the total number of married couples who met online divided by the total number of married couples – as proof that online dating works.

That, however, is a skewed measure of success for online dating sites that would be best replaced with a measure that is the share of all searching singles that ultimately met a relationship partner online – the total number of married couples who met online divided by the total number of potential married couples.

I haven’t seen any evidence of the success of online dating using the second measure and, in a period in which the rate of singlehood is increasing, we have good reason to be suspicious as to whether or not the first measure is really capturing an increase in marriage rates as the result of access to bigger markets.

Over the next couple of posts I am going to talk about the broader negative effect of online dating on dating markets and finish up with a discussion of how online dating might be improving marriage even if it doesn’t necessarily increase the rate at which couples match.

To start, let’s talk about how people behave when they are faced with a large number of choices on the dating market – they start by limiting their available options.

Online daters are not really looking for the needle in the haystack as much as they are looking to eliminate the pieces of straw as quickly as possible to reveal the hidden needle. Eliminating available options can be extremely time consuming in a large market so they find ways to filter out unwanted matches quickly by filtering searches and scanning profiles for reasons to reject rather than for reasons to accept.

The problem with this approach that focuses on a “must have” list of qualities is that it fails to recognize that the value of qualities a person possesses are not absolute but rather relative to other qualities.

For example, a man might want a woman who describes herself as slender and shares his avid interest in traveling and so limits his search for women who are slender and who list traveling as one of their interests. Both of these qualities might be important to him, but chances are one is more important than the other. If he had been searching for a woman using a more traditional method he might have met a woman whose passion for travel more than made up for her curvy figure and they could have formed a happy union. Because he is filtering online, however, he never has a chance to even see her profile, never mind hear about the year she spent traveling in South America.

Filtering searches might not sound like relationship greed, but it is in the sense that we want it all. The problem with this approach is that when we filter we lose out on the opportunity to find someone who actually has more of what we are looking for rather than someone who has less.

I can always tell if a man that I am on a date with has spent too much time on the online dating market. Instead of taking the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company these men seem to spend the entire date mentally checking off boxes, almost like they are conducting an interview that would allow them to complete a online dating profile for me when they get home. I don’t know when a date became more like a job interview than an opportunity to seduce the member of the opposite (or same) sex, but I am pretty sure it started with online dating.

Next up, waiting for Mr./Ms Right.

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less