I recently made my first online dating profile.
I uploaded a profile photo, filled out a roster of stats about my body type and drinking habits, and started answering questions like “Do you recycle?” and “How much do you usually tip a server who did a fine job?”
Then I asked my boyfriend of eight years to create a profile of his own.
No, we’re not breaking up or trying out an open relationship. I was conducting an experiment to see how online dating works—specifically, how accurate the matchmaking features on dating sites are. Millions of people use these sites every day to try to find something I already have—a loving long-term relationship—and I wanted to know if they were going about it all wrong.
Let me back up. I met my boyfriend on our first day of high school. I fell hard for him—he was smart and funny, could play multiple musical instruments, and already had a beard—but we didn’t start dating until college. As it turned out, high school-freshman me somehow had extremely good taste. My boyfriend is mature and honest, never picks a fight or raises his voice, and sees men and women as equals. And he’s still a talented musician with a beard, to boot. We’ve been together for eight years now, and it's hard to imagine two people more compatible for long-term coupledom. We’re both introverted atheists who are cautious with money, and don’t want kids. We make each other laugh, and love spending time together. We would've gotten married a long time ago except neither of us believes in marriage. What we have, in short, is True Love.
When my friends start dating someone, I wish for them what I have. I want their partners to support them, and say they love them every day. I want my friends to tweet all the cute things their partners do just because they’re so delighted. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are still searching.
And because I’m a millennial, many of my friends are searching online. I never had a reason to do any online dating, so naturally, I’m curious about it. Are dating sites actually effective in matching people up? Do they connect people who seem like a good match on paper, but don’t get along in person? Is data-based dating any better than its analog counterpart at helping people find their soul mate?
Would my boyfriend and I still have ended up together if we met online?