Methodology

Indiscriminately swipe right.

This is how a prudent person would approach Tinder. Of all the women in your designated catchment area, only a few will find you tolerably attractive. Even fewer will respond to your messages. If the Gods are looking favourably upon you, a woman might even transgress established gender norms and message you first. But, even then, of those with whom you exchange messages, fewer still will actually meet you in person.

The process of gold-panning a date from a pool of potential partners is iterative and low-yield – one requires tenacity and patience.

Whilst on Tinder last year, I indiscriminately and rapidly swiped right approximately 2000 times. After waiting a few days, I checked my phone…

No matches.

That’s not entirely correct, I got a couple of matches… but it transpired that they were chat bots. Ah, what a fool I was, to think a sentient being (capable of passing a Turing test) could fancy me!

But, as many a trite aphorism teaches us; one must try, try, try again. After all, as I have previously alluded, the online dating process is iterative and low-yield.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising each time we fall,”

Confucius said.

Or, as the modern superhero incarnation of Confucian wisdom goes –

“Why do we fall Master Bruce? To learn to pick ourselves up again.”

Such aphorisms may be true, but still, surely it’s distasteful to broadcast these mantras on the top of Golden Gate Bridge and Beachy Head? (Readers must excuse the dark humour, it is obviously a Freudian ego-defence mechanism engineered to cope with loneliness and helplessness).

Anyhow, I’ve digressed. Following low success on Tinder, I transposed my strategy to OKCupid: indiscriminately ‘liking’ everybody on the ‘Quickmatch’ section of the site. An advantage of the free version of OKCupid is that, if someone likes you too, you are alerted to this fact. Nice.

My rationale in adopting this strategy was simple – in economic terms, I wanted to maximise utility: to get the greatest value possible at the lowest possible price. In this case, the most valuable outcome is a date with a girl – a rare commodity, akin to caviar or Heisenberg-purity crystal methamphetamine. (Oddly; normal, ‘neurotypical,’ non-ugly and non-anxious people somehow seem to obtain dates, sex and partners in abundance, as if they were banknotes in the Weimar Republic).

Given that OKCupid is a free dating site (unless you pay for A-list), the price paid to get a date is not financial, but comprises time and effort – time and effort lavished on composing and tailoring messages to women. Yet, ask any man who has given up on OKCupid and this cost will be high on their list of reasons for leaving the site.

You read a woman’s profile and then concoct some witty opening message. This message must somehow appear sufficiently detached so as to not reek of desperate overfamiliarity. Yet it must also be specific enough to make its recipient feel special: a unique woman (with the identikit emotions, interests and life experiences that most of us share), rather than just some soulless number awaiting processing in the algorithm of curing loneliness. Achieving this subtle mix takes time and effort; it incurs a large cost. The price is high.

costcutter But, after laboriously crafting the message, you then hit send. You get no response. Is it any wonder hoards of men give up on OKCupid? On occasion, a woman might respond and engage in three or four to-and-froes of messages. Ah, I’m in now. Eventually, you crack the question,

“Anyhow, fancy meeting in-person sometime and continuing this discussion of Kurosawa films/existentialist philosophy/Arrested Development/some pretentious bollocks over a coffee?”

But suddenly, she mysteriously disappears off the site or, worse, agrees to coffee and then flakes out the night before, safely escorted by some bullshit excuse that will obviously go uncontested by a stranger on the internet.

By contrast, when a woman has also ‘liked’ you back, the odds of her not responding to your message or responding-but-then-flaking decrease slightly. Consequently, the indiscriminate liking method reduces the time and effort wasted sending messages to flaky time-wasters. It curtails one’s cost and maximises utility.

Another benefit is that the method drives the women whom you have ‘liked’ to actually view your profile. A sense of humour, academic credentials and a refined taste in film, music and literature that are evident in a written profile can partially mitigate the patently obvious shortcomings of baldness, lack of muscles and lack of height betrayed in my profile pictures.

Of course, this method has its downsides. Unfortunately, I am falsely raising the hopes of hundreds, if not thousands, of women, by ‘liking’ them with no veridical intention of dating a significant proportion of them. I know, I know, I can’t complain about not having a girlfriend and then maintain unjustifiably high standards. As another aphorism goes – beggars cannot be choosers. But, truth be told, it’s hard to force something as biologically-ingrained as physical attraction. Obesity, a heady interest in shows such as the X-Factor and a lack of adoration for Stewart Lee are all massive turn-offs for me.

Besides, women think I’m attractive. Well, one woman. And that woman is my mother. Nevertheless, I am probably average-looking, 5 feet 9 inches tall, slim and have a full-time job, so I wield at least some negotiating power in the dating market.

Anyway, the sheer amount of joy derived personally from finally landing a date completely outweighs the minor annoyance imposed on a woman whose profile I have ‘liked’ but failed to message. My strategy is thus quantitatively justified using Bentham’s utilitarian or ‘felicific’ calculus. My happiness > Others’ misery.

And so emerges the single biggest reward of indiscriminately ‘liking’ every woman on OKCupid – a few women actually initiated contact with me. My inbox started receiving messages.

Now I didn’t even have to expend time and effort painstakingly writing opening messages myself. Cost was low, utility was maximal. And do you know what? I actually went on a date with one such woman. It didn’t evolve into a girlfriend, sexual intercourse, or even a second date, but so what? The cost was low; I had invested very little – temporally, financially and emotionally.

I’ve only been on one date so far, but let’s consider the alternative scenarios in terms of costs (or risks) and benefits (potential gains), when it comes to trying to arrange a date. The table below summarises this:

Method

Benefit

Cost/Risk

Meeting someone in the workplace Date/ Girlfriend Risk of woman not being single

Risk of face-to-face rejection at work 

Long-term awkwardness in workplace (both if she goes out with you or rejects you)

Meeting someone at party Date/Girlfriend 

Potentially enjoyable party

Risk of woman not being single 

Having to muster enough social capital to be invited to a party  

Risk of face-to-face rejection at the party  

Long-term awkwardness is there are mutual friends involved

Meeting someone via a hobby group, sports club, art class etc. Date/Girlfriend

Potentially enjoyable hobby, sport etc.

Effort, time and money spent attending group

Risk of woman not being single 

Risk of face-to-face rejection in the group  

Long term awkwardness if it’s an on-going, regular group

Meeting someone at a bar/club Date Girlfriend

Potential enjoyment of being in a bar/club (very limited enjoyment for someone like me)

Effort, time and money spent going to a bar/club

Risk of woman not being single 

Risk of face-to-face rejection    

Meeting someone via Online Dating Date/Girlfriend Effort and time spent replying to a message

Risk of online rejection (boohoo)

Some people lambast online dating as contrived, clinically detached and no substitute for meeting people through ‘normal channels’ (what is criterial for ‘normal’ is another topic). While there is some truth in this, it cannot be denied that online dating results in success for some people and forms a useful adjunct for meeting new singles. Moreover, as I’ve described, it takes less time and effort setting up an initial date.

As the aphorism goes: nothing risked, nothing gained. Perhaps, but when online dating is involved, the initial risk need not be terribly large.

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2 responses to “Methodology

  1. “Besides, women think I’m attractive. Well, one woman. And that woman is my mother.” Bahahaha. Oh man. That should go on your profile.

    I loved your dating table. It makes me want to create my own pie chart 😀

    • Ha thanks, humour is the only thing preventing this blog descending into some futile, onanistic spiral of self-pity.

      Go for the pie chart! To quote the film ‘Pi’ (see what I did there) – “everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.” That includes dating.

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