Big Data Seeks Online Love

Online dating is booming, but can algorithms really be used to predict love? We’ve taken a look at some of the facts – both positive and negative – behind the online phenomenon.

The Facts

Online dating users spend an average of:

  • 22 minutes each time they visit an online dating site
  • 12 hours a week engaged in computer  based online dating activity

1 in 10 Americans have used a dating site or other mobile dating app.

66% have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app

23% have met a spouse or long term partner through these sites

Online dating has come a long way…

“Online dating allows people to find a better match for themselves.”

  • 2005: 47% agree
  • 2013: 53% agree

“Online dating is a good way to meet people.”

  • 2005: 44% agree
  • 2013: 59% agree

57% of Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more know someone who uses online dating.

40% know someone who met a spouse or partner online.

11% of American couples who have been together for ten years or less met online.

5% of Americans who are currently married or in a long term partnership met their partner somewhere online.

Marriages or committed relationships that began online:

8% of 18-29 year olds

7% of 30-49 year olds

3% of 50-64 year olds

1% of those 65 or older

…but still has a long way to go

“People who use online dating sites are desperate.”

  • 2005: 29% agree
  • 2013: 21% agree

54% of online daters felt someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile.

28% of online daters have been contacted by someone through an online dating site or app in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable.

The Sites 21,575,000 members

eHarmony: 15,500,000 members

Chemistry: 30,000,000 members

OkCupid: 30,000,000 members

Zoosk: 25,000,000 members

Specialty Sites



Coffee Meets Bagel

Age & Family/ Marital Status



Ashley Madison


GenePartner (DNA)

Find Your Face Mate (facial features)


Meet Millionaire

Meeting Millionaires




Christian Mingle

The Algorithm

Not all online dating sites make their algorithm public, but Okcupid does.

OkCupid: Patented Algorithm

  • The member answers a question.
  • OkCupid learns:
    • The member’s answer
    • How the member would like someone else to answer
    • How important the question is to the member
  • Members are assigned a percentage score, which calculates the likelihood they would be a good match

There has been much criticism over the use of matching algorithms:

  • Limiting the prospect pool does not improve the success
  • Sites present members with random prospects, which is not different than meeting strangers at a bar
  • There is no way for sites to know how people will really interact offline
  • Algorithms cannot account for deeper psychological issues

Studies show

  • Similarity on personality traits and attitudes has no effect on relationship well-being in established relationships
    • 99.5% spousal satisfaction based on other factors
    • .5% spousal satisfaction based on major dimensions of personality (e.g., neuroticism, impulsivity, extroversion)

“…research demonstrates that people are attracted to others whom they perceive to be similar to them, but that finding is irrelevant to dating sites that use matching algorithms because the two people are not even aware of each other’s presence when they fill out matching questionnaires and therefore cannot report on perceived similarity.”

The Match

Why an online dating profile may get undesirable responses:

  • The profile contains offputting information
  • The user is too picky when it comes to responding to potential suitors
  • The profile does not contain a photo

How users can get best results with a photo:

  • Use a current professional photo
  • Be the only one in the photo
  • Post multiple photos

Success for men:

  • For every 10 men who post a personal ad on a dating site, only 3 get a response.

Success for women:

  • Women receive more responses to their profiles when their photos show more of their bodies, not just their face.

The Lies

Of users who lie in their online dating profiles, the most common lies are:

Height – Users claim to be 2 inches taller

Income – Users claim to be 20% richer

Photos – Users post out-of-date photos

Sexuality – Users who claim to be bisexual may only be interested in one gender

81% of online daters reported inaccurate information on at least one of these three characteristics on their profile:

60% lied about their weight

48% about their height

19% about their age

Men most often overestimate their height. Women most often underestimate their weight.


1 Mitchell R. L (2009). Online dating: Analyzing the algorithms of attraction. PCWorld. Retrieved from

2 Frost J. H., chance Z., Norton M. I., Ariely D. (2008). People are experience goods; Improving online dating with virtual dates. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22, 51-61.

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