The calculus of online dating: Teeth, grammar, and these three questions

February 14, 2013
February 14, 2013

For the romantically inclined, Valentine’s Day always brings with it some degree of pressure—not least for online daters trying to separate the wheat from the cyber-chaff. Here are some potentially useful data points for those strategizing Internet-assisted romances today:

Men and women on Match.com both agree: teeth and grammar are the most important qualities in a potential date.

Personality matchup might ultimately be more important, though. OkCupid founder Sam Yagan told Bloomberg TV that the are three questions to ask on a first date: 1) whether you both like horror movies; 2) have you ever traveled alone in a foreign country; and 3) have you ever wanted “to just chuck it all and live on a sailboat.” Couples that answer the same to all three questions have a statistically significantly greater chance of making it long-term.

Your mileage may vary: On OkCupid, users add two inches to their height and 20% to their annual income. And Americans lie more than Brits.

In terms of the number of sex partners, gays and straights are pretty much the same, according to OkCupid:
OKCupid sex partners number gay straight
Pretty women are more likely to respond to a first email from guys ranging from average-looking to ugly than they are the studliest tier of men, according to one study in which “attractiveness” was based on subjects’ ranking of online dating profile photos (pdf, p.54.) At the same time, another study—this one based on user attractiveness evaluations on an Australian dating site—found that the hottest men proved downright eager when hit on by women from any comeliness bracket (pdf, p.10). This is possibly because “most women may not even dare contact them,” said researchers. In addition, the competition for single women is much higher than it is for single dudes, with less attractive women receiving several multiples more in come-on emails than more handsomer men, based on one experiment. But then again, men view three times as many profiles as women.

"What Makes You Click - Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating," by Hitsch, Hortaçsu and Ariely

Among all of OkCupid’s demographics, Asian lesbians are the hottest commodity—they get the highest rate of response to their pick-up messages. Meanwhile, Middle Easterners draw the most attention from men, both straight and gay.

Hotlanta, it turns out, earns its nickname. Men’s Health ranked Atlanta, US, the highest based on the number of members using six leading online dating services and the percentage of households that dabble in online dating. Atlantans are also by far the keenest consumers of customized erotic fiction.

While Norwegians (64%) are far more likely than other Euorpeans or Japanese to have met their partner online, chat rooms still dominate (pdf, p.20) as online meeting places in Spain (38%) and the Netherlands (34%).

online dating europe japan oxford internet institute

For today’s online dater, “success” often doesn’t mean “marriage”—although it varies widely between online dating sites. For instance, while nearly 85% of eHarmony users equated the two, only 23% of OkCupid users associated favorable dating outcomes with tying the knot.

With Graph Search, Facebook effectively launched a dating site. But will its contributions to romantic pairings offset the couples it drives apart? Some 55% of men who cited something Facebook-related as their reason for breaking up did so because of their date’s pictures, while 48% of women cited a prospective paramour’s wall post, according to a survey by Match.com.

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