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The Mathematics of Online Dating
By Marc Freedman

Author's aside: Math and logic help us make sense of and improve everyday life. You don't really want to leave the most important part of your life -- your love life -- to random luck, do you??? If you think the math of dating is far fetched, try toilet paper algorithms!

The battlefield of the sexes continues to rage on in the new millennium. True love may be just a click away. But who holds the power today?

Let us start with the traditional role of the male as aggressor. Unlike the real world there is no immediate feedback online. When a guy makes initial contact in person he immediately can see if the woman is receptive and employ his personal charms to get a date. But an online message falls into an abyss, rarely meriting a reply. The man's best strategy then is not to limit contact to just one lady, but to send messages to several women at a time. It's the equivalent of going into a bar or club. You don't stop at the first 'no'. You talk to many women in the hopes of finding one with whom you'll connect.

The woman plays gatekeeper. She can literally be barraged by hundreds of guys within a week. She's the one who gets to choose who to ignore, who to write, and who to date.

We all have dating preferences, a qualitative interest level. We form it at the outset even when it's just a first impression. It's based on what we know about someone from their photo and their profile and how well they match up with our interests and needs. This changes as we communicate, interact, and see them in person. These interest levels guide us in the dating process. We're constantly comparing our prospective partners. ... I adore her the most. I like him more. I like her less. He's a creep. ... We develop a comparative ranking as we go through the dating process.

For this math exercise let's imagine that every person has such a ranking at the beginning of the dating dance. The rules of the dance are simple. It's the traditional courtship where the man makes first contact and the woman decides to accept or reject him.

It is impossible to predict results on an individual basis. Each guy or gal is not going to get their top pick. I gave up on Cheryl Tiegs many, many years ago. What we can know is that at the end of the dance several months later people are matched up with their honey. If they're not, they're thrown out of our exercise.

When we look at the results of these pairings do men or women make out better under traditional courtship? Which gender ends up with partners with whom they have a higher ranking?

The counter-intuitive logic shows that this dating approach is best for men as a whole. While women do hold the power to accept or reject suitors, they are getting a selection of random men. A woman doesn't know whether she's being contacted by the top 100 guys on her own ranked list or the bottom 100. Every lady may have a knight in shining armor. But if she only picks from the guys calling on her she leaves it to pure chance. It's likely that she'll end up with a squire with a slightly tarnished shield. She never gets the chance to meet her top stud.

Conversely men are guaranteed an optimal outcome because their contact is hardly random. They start at the top of their ranked list and work their way to the bottom. They continue to contact the the top women on their ever shrinking list until they find one who'll accept the lovable lug.

The lesson to women is simple: The power of sitting back and selecting dates by wading through the guys who contact you is illusory. Passivity is a no-win situation. Be aggressive. Make the first move. Date multiple men. Delay entering into an exclusive relationship.

In other words, if you want to find the best man, you've got to date like one.

Furthermore, webgrrls who break out of the traditional role and proactively contact men are putting the men in the passive inferior role. Such modern women improve not only the quality of their personal matches, but also the overall outcome for their gender.

A final lesson to today's ladies. Many webgrrls indeed do make the first contact, made easy through a single click on an Internet personals web site. In this mixed environment the traditional woman puts herself at a grave disadvantage. Your fellow teammates are no longer playing by the same rules. With the webgrrls scooping up higher preferences, you get proportionally lower preferences. So get out there and exercise your right to vote and find the man of your dreams!

Copyright 2001-2 Marc Freedman


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