I’d like to say I’m shocked by OkCupid’s, or rather the co-founder and data scientist Christian Rudder’s post about experimenting on people, but really I’m not. Because I have been on more than a few OKCupid dates and let me tell you, if someone had told me afterwards that people were messing with me and those people were not as perfect a match as the site led me to believe, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Algorithmic experiments are being done left, right and center on us all by those sneaky swines:
“We took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.)† Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do.
But we took the analysis one step deeper. We asked: does the displayed match percentage cause more than just that first message–does the mere suggestion cause people to actually like each other? As far as we can measure, yes, it does.
When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”
Got to admit – I’m kind of impressed, and a little bit relieved that I don’t have to blame my own terrible judgement anymore. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do have terrible judgement, TERRIBLE AWFUL ATROCIOUS judgement, but still… makes me feel a little better, you know?
I guess the moral of the story is don’t believe everything you read, but also, don’t be so frickin judgemental. Basing your ideas about another human on a few facts and figures written on a computer screen is actually pretty terrible in itself. Everyone deserves a chance to be a real live human being in front of us, don’t they? We might be pleasantly surprised. So, from this point on, I hereby swear not to look at numbers or star signs or height anymore on these profiles. Well, OK, maybe height. If you’re short I’ll just be looking over your shoulder for the next tall person so it wouldn’t be fair to date you, sorry. I’m shallow like that.
But this is why Tinder is so good, right? Yes, it’s shallow, too, looking at people’s faces (and height) before anything else, but that’s what we do in bars when we chat people up in the real world, isn’t it? We scan the crowd, dismissing more than we’d like to actually strike up a conversation with. But still, there’s something that feels a bit wrong about swiping over someone as your mind screams ‘NO’ at an iPhone Tinder app. Your vain self can’t help thinking of all the people who are doing it to you.
Anyway, the point is, in this superficial world, any genuine piece of human contact, be that a chat, a drink, a date to the movies or a night of passionate sex, has got to be better than staring at a computer and judging. We create our own algorithms when we go out in search of chemistry.
And on that note, I’m off to ‘swipe’ more selectively in a bar…