Online dating has gone "retro" with the latest "high-tech dating technology ... bringing people together the old-fashioned way, with singles parties where people can crowd together at bars while consuming alcohol and flirting," according to The New York Times' Jenna Wortham. Popular sites like Match.com and OkCupid are taking the dating offline by hosting old-school in-person meet-ups and get togethers. Wortham also introduces readers to apps like MeetMoi, which works kind of like Grindr, connecting people in the same area to meet in person for dates. This is all supposed to surprise us because technology should move humanity forward and the latest in technology is doing the opposite, putting dating back where it came from. But, this isn't actually a step backwards because online dating was never really online.
The thing that makes online dating a futuristic technology-driven thing at all, is that it uses algorithms to match people up based on their answers to questions. The sites also work like a digital boyfriend (or girlfriend) store, letting users pick future dates using more than just the way they look. Not only can we judge them on their favorite books or shows, but we can assess their use of emoticons, writing style, and spelling and grammar abilities -- all things that seem really important when choosing someone to meet with romantic intentions. Those are the high-tech parts. But when it came to the dating part, after the planning stages, it always happens offline. People were never having Internet relationships: They were just using the Internet to find people with whom to have relationships in real life.
This new movement offline could be considered a step away from tech, as a reaction to recognizing the limitations of the data-driven approach. Even the highest match percentages don't always work out beyond the first date. Recent studies have found that online dating has no better results than going to a bar. "There's only so much you can do with data," Susan Etlinger, a research analyst at the Altimeter Group told Wortham. So to increase the likelihood of liking people, these meet-ups give prospective partners more than the data -- they give them a chance to make a more informed decision by meeting in person.
But Internet dating sites have always known this exact limit to their own technology. "The algorithm is designed to say these are the people you're more likely to like," OkCupid founder Sam Yagan told The Atlantic Wire. "On the whole you're better having a good recommendation than no recommendation at all," he continued. The more people a person looking for love meets the more likely they are to find someone they might one day love. OkCupid and the like try to make that process a little less random.
But, that is just one way technology can help the process. Now, as these sites try to grow and appeal to new people, or the disillusioned, technology is being used in a different way, connecting people with location-based apps. But, at some point, there is only so much technology can do. Until the day we complete the transformation from Internet dependent beings to just Internet humans, the online dating has to occur offline.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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