How Big Data Has Changed Dating

What it means to be single and looking for love in the time of algorithms

(AFP / Getty Images / Frederic J. Brown)

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I also talked to a bunch of divorce lawyers. These divorce lawyers are saying that technology is a factor in a very large percentage of the relationship breakups they are seeing these days. It may not just be online dating, but it is the whole world of connection that happens online. It is also email; it is also Facebook. The easier it becomes to stray and to go in search of something new, the higher the percentage of people who do that.

What is the next big thing in online dating?

As some of the more sophisticated sites learn how to use their data to enrich things like matching, will the technology advance what we know about the science of compatibility? For the time being, psychological science says that it is impossible to predict the likelihood of compatibility between people who have never met. Obviously, there are a lot of dating sites out there saying the opposite. They are saying we actually can predict the likelihood of two people hitting it off on a first day, even when they have never met before. Some sites will even go as far as to say we can predict the likelihood of a good marriage between two strangers. Psychological scientists and academics are sitting on the sideline saying, “Okay, show me that.” And sites, of course, aren’t really offering anything up. So, the question is, will they gather so much data about what people want that they can actually move science forward to the point where the likelihood of a successful match being struck goes from 5 percent to 15 percent, or something like that. I think that is the next thing to watch.


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