Amy Webb was having no luck with online dating. The dates she liked didn’t write her back, and her own profile attracted crickets (and worse). So, as any fan of data would do: she started making a spreadsheet. Hear the story of how she went on to hack her online dating life — with frustrating, funny and life-changing results.
She heads the digital strategy house Webbmedia Group, and is a founder of the SparkCamp discussion series. She’s the author of Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match
What’s wrong with me?
So my name is Amy Webb, and a few years ago I found myself at the end of yet another fantastic relationship that came burning down in a spectacular fashion.
So I asked everybody in my life what they thought. I turned to my grandmother, who always had plenty of advice, and she said, “Stop being so picky. You’ve got to date around. And most importantly, true love will find you when you least expect it.”
I was trying to figure out what’s the probability of my finding Mr. Right?
Well, at the time I was living in the city of Philadelphia, and it’s a big city, and I figured, in this entire place, there are lots of possibilities. So again, I started doing some math. Population of Philadelphia: it has 1.5 million people. I figure about half of that are men, so that takes the number down to 750,000. I’m looking for a guy between the ages of 30 and 36, which was only four percent of the population, so now I’m dealing with the possibility of 30,000 men. I was looking for somebody who was Jewish,because I am and that was important to me. That’s only 2.3 percent of the population. I figure I’m attracted to maybe one out of 10 of those men, and there was no way I was going to deal with somebody who was an avid golfer. So that basically meant there were 35 men for me that I could possibly date in the entire city of Philadelphia.
So I have two possible strategies at this point I’m sort of figuring out.
One, I can take my grandmother’s advice and sort of least-expect my way into maybe bumping into the one out of 35 possible men in the entire 1.5-million-person city of Philadelphia, or I could try online dating.
Will data and an algorithm lead me to my Prince Charming? So I decided to sign on.
Well, one month later, I had a lot of data, and I was able to do another analysis. And as it turns out, content matters a lot. So smart people tend to write a lot — 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 words about themselves, which may all be very, very interesting. The challenge here, though, is that the popular men and women are sticking to 97 words on average that are written very, very well, even though it may not seem like it all the time. The other hallmark of the people who do this well is that they’re using non-specific language.
And as it turns out, timing is also really, really important. Just because you have access to somebody’s mobile phone number or their instant message account and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you happen to be awake, doesn’t mean that that’s a good time to communicate with those people. The popular women on these online sites spend an average of 23 hours in between each communication. And that’s what we would normally do in the usual process of courtship.
And finally — there were the photos.All of the women who were popular showed some skin. They all looked really great, which turned out to be in sharp contrast to what I had uploaded.
There is an algorithm for love.
It’s just not the ones that we’re being presented with online. In fact, it’s something that you write yourself. So whether you’re looking for a husband or a wife or you’re trying to find your passion or you’re trying to start a business, all you have to really do is figure out your own framework and play by your own rules, and feel free to be as picky as you want.