Online Dating According to Freakonomics

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Where are single people supposed to meet prospects?  In a lifetime we will only meet 10,000 people, and you’ve probably discovered by now that after completing your highest level of education (whether it be HS, college or graduate school) the rate at which you meet people significantly decreases.  Over the years I’ve met new friends through the workplace, but dating in the workplace is frowned upon.  There’s lots of reasons to “not sh*t where you eat”.   For these reasons many people consider trying online dating.  Online dating provides a huge database of opportunity to filter and meet potential matches.  The idea of it sounds fantastic, but if you’ve tried it you may have found it’s more frustrating that you initially thought it might be.

Is there a science behind online dating?  Are there strategies to utilizing these massive databases effectively? As a huge fan of Freakonomics and the idea of using economics to measure and predict real life processes and social situations I was thrilled to find a podcast all about Online Dating.  What You Don’t Know About Online Dating.
This podcast is great and you should definitely listen for yourself, but in the meantime, here are a few highlights I picked up:


1. LOOKS matter a lot to men 

  • Hot women are 4x more likely to get messaged than average looking women and 25x more likely to be messaged as women perceived as ugly
  • While women care less about looks, stats show that the top 5% of hottest men were messaged 2x more than the top 10% hottest.  After that men’s looks seems to not matter so much to women.
  • While looks mattered, weight didn’t seem to matter for either gender.
So what does this mean for single daters utilizing online sites?  Well beauty is subjective, fleeting and not entirely controllable.  Whatever nose, thick curls or straggly straights, lean or fully figured bod we’ve inherited is for the most part what we are stuck with.  Rather than focusing on trying to achieve often unobtainable trending standards of beauty we should focus on specific ways to maximize our inherited traits.Remember also that people have types. For example, my single male friend (who happens to be a total catch) is specifically attracted to full figured women that are at least 6 ft tall.  Meanwhile, I have girlfriends who agonize over being too tall or too full figured openly envying the 5’0 110lb gal.  These women slouch in their flats attempting to blend in a crowded room rather than strutting their sexy heels, and embracing their height and size.  Own it don’t hide it, because confidence ultimately will always be your sexiest feature.  
Owning it means caring about self maintenance.  Sometimes when we don’t love how we look we delay trying to look good until we’ve lost that extra 20 lbs.  Bullshit!  Self care and self maintenance can’t be delayed.  If you want to loose 20lbs, great, but don’t let it stop you from sporting cute clothes in your size today, sporting a new haircut today, or up-keeping those mani-pedis today if that’s your thing.    10 WAYS TO BE MORE ATTRACTIVE & CONFIDENT
So what does this mean for online dating?  It means the photos you post need to be dynamic!  At least 1-2 of your photos should be non-casual.  A professional picture in work clothes, or a photo of you dressed up at a friend’s wedding would both suffice.


2. MONEY  & Profession matter a lot to women

  • Men who make 250k/yr get contacted 2x as much as men who make 50k a year.  Level of education didn’t seem to directly matter however people who have more education tend to make more money statistically speaking.
  • Not only do men not care about money, statistics show that in relationships if the woman makes more money than the man the relationship tends to be less stable.
  • Women are mainly attracted to lawyers, doctors, military men and firefighters.
Knowing this, men who are serious about finding a lasting relationship should be committed to answering these profile questions honestly.  In creating an honest dating profile, you self select out of the dating pool of women looking for something you aren’t.  This is a good thing.
I used to think that caring about a man’s salary made a woman a gold digger.  But as I talked to more and more women I realized there was solid reason behind their income requirements.  Some women desired large families and the freedom to be a stay at home mom.  Other women were established and striving in high paying careers which afforded them lifestyles of travel and lavish things. They desired a spouse who could also partake in their lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with having income requirements of your spouse, however it is important to be upfront about it.  The worst thing you can do is pair up with a man who makesless but then resent or patronize him for his income. 

3. Thick Market Effect vs. Traditionally Thin Markets

The thick market effect is when you have a huge pool and the ability to filter down to only a small applicable fraction of the pool.  Remember in your lifetime you will meet on average only 10,000 people.  But a site as large as OKCupid can give you exposure to over 1 million users using a series of algorithms to then filter out mismatches.   Likewise online dating sites such as J-DATEa Jewish dating site help centralize dating efforts in an otherwise thin or sparse market.  The same is true for sites like Pink Cupid a lesbian dating site.


4. The Coordination GAME

Freakonomics experts warn that online daters should be “upfront and forthcoming in a Coordination Game”.  While it is okay and maybe even strategic to lie a little or stretch some truths some deal-breaking points should be stated upfront.  For example, if you have kids or a loyal German Shepard  you won’t want to mislead on these topics.  Ultimately you want to give out accurate information that allows potential viewers of your profile to determine if you have baseline compatibility. 


5. online dating Search Theory

The concept behind search theory, according to economist is that some people should be more or less picky depending on their circumstance.  For example, a young 20 something year old who finds a successful relationship can potentially spend the next 50 years with that spouse.  With that said, they should be incredibly picky and patient in choosing.  As they age, they should slowly become less picky and less patient.  Likewise a person in their 50’s may spend only 20 some odd years with a spouse and thus should be more willing to settle.  The search theory also considers the male female ratio in a given city and whether or not they are in your favor.  
I can see how this could quickly be misinterpreted and lead to unsuccessful settling. Often I see divorced or never before married women settling unsuccessfully because they want marriage so badly and are doubtful they will find better options. Ultimately we must evaluate what we want and value in a relationship and make sure that we don’t settle on the wrong things.3 GODLY REASONS YOU’RE SETTLING IN LOVE   Remember it takes more time to chose wrong, separate, recover and start dating all over again, then it does to be patient and choose better the first time.


6. When you should Lie on an online dating Profile

Lastly Freakonomics gives a few hints on when to lie, exaggerate or omit information from a profile.
  • It’s okay for men to emphasize that they enjoy deep conversation and cuddling, even if it’s not so true
  • Social drinkers / a little more than just social drinkers, it’s okay to de-emphasize how much you drink
  • It’s okay to tone down your jokester side or your dare devil side
  • It’s okay to skip some uncomfortable or unnecessary questions
What are your thoughts on online dating?  Does income or profession matter to you?   If the male to female odds are not in your favor in whatever city you currently live, would you consider moving to a new city?  
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this topic!  Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the original Freakonomics podcast: What You Don’t Know About Online
If you enjoyed this post and want to read more from economist Paul Oyer check out his book: Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating


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