According to jezebel.com, the pseudo-science behind dating websites is total crap. Can we have a show of hands among our readers to see how many of you are surprised? Oh, no one?
It would be fair to ask why I’m talking about this on a site that is purportedly dedicated to excursions in virility. Consider this a tangent. Or consider it tangentially related to the primary mission. One of my ever-present secondary objectives is to destroy “romantic” soul-matey ideas of love and marriage.
If eharmony wanted to prove that its method is superior to other matchmaking methods, it wouldn’t be tough, says Karney — all they’d have to do is perform an experiment that compares the success of relationships matched using their algorithm as compared to those cultivated with another algorithm or with no algorithm at all.
That, I am sure, is true. Apparently they haven’t done this, and Dr. Karney wishes that they would. Accurate labeling practices and all that. Fair enough, although eHarmony’s making no medical claims, and no one is harmed in the making of their films…at least not without understanding that this is love, people, and love isdangereuse.
Here’s the weird bit for me.
So it seems a little strange that a guy [the company's founder, Neil Clark Warren] who “doesn’t like research” would base a company’s entire oeuvre on a fake idea that entire teams of nerds are pouring over tics on a data sheet, pouring primary colored liquid into beakers and watching it bubble, tabulating and cross-referencing and calibrating until a perfect match is found.
Karney doubts whether such an algorithm could even exist. Relationships, he explained to LA Weekly, don’t begin because of actual similarities, but people who are in relationships project similarities onto their partnership. That is, if you’re spending a ton of time around someone you think is rad, you’ll try to hunt for elements of your own personality that match up with the other person’s rad-ness. That’s why looking to long-married couples for matchmaking is ultimately a fool’s errand — they have learned to think they’re very similar to each other over the course of years. They’ve grown together; they weren’t made for each other.
Ms. Jezebel as incarnate in the form of web-writer Erin Gloria Ryan, the answer to your challenge is in your text itself. You say that eHarmony’s equations can’t possibly work because they are trying to recreate the act of two people believing they want to be together, who end up shaping and changing reality to create that perfect match. They think they should be together, so they are together.
Well, perfect. That seems to be exactly what eHarmony does. And the pitch with the nerds, data sheets, and beakers only makes it more effective. They make two people believe they should be together, thereby greatly increasing the chances that they will shape reality to create that perfect match. That’s the magic, and it shouldn’t be a surprise.
I’m not addressing anything brought up in the study cited by the Jezebel article, since I haven’t read it. It sounds interesting and may have a lot of merit. But why hate on someone saying “You two should really be together, you’d be perfect for each other. Oh, you’re not sure? Don’t worry, I have a DOCTORATE IN LOVE, you should definitely give this a shot.”
It could very well be that the folks at eHarmony do not share my cynical belief that any man and woman who are willing to share, sacrifice, and work their love will find love. There’s no finding a soulmate in poetry, and there’s no finding a soulmate in compatibility tests. There’s just doing love.
Are there real “compatibility” issues? Sure, I’ll admit to that if we don’t call it “compatibility”. But it’s not hard to find the necessary degree of “compatibility”. It’s hard to find two people who are willing to be unselfish. If being duped into thinking the person across from you is your mathematically perfect match helps you be unselfish, more power to eHarmony. Or to my personal favorite, Reformed Singles. Brown chicken brown cow!