OKCupid is an online dating site with 12 year track record (and counting). The site was launched by a group of friends including Christian Rudder, who is now the leader of the website’s analytics team. Translation: he has access to massive amounts of data.
Dating websites collect data in various forms. You can look at what people say in response to specific questions, but you can also see how people behave. Rudder, a self-confessed math nerd, wrote many algorithms to explore this data and bring people’s behaviour to light en masse. He tells the story of this data through well designed graphs and charts.
Here are some of the (politically incorrect) things I’ve learned:
- Men are far more generous than women when rating the attractiveness of the opposite sex.
- Women find men around their age to be the most attractive while men of any age find twenty year olds to be the most attractive.
- People prefer partners from their own race with one exception: every race prefers to date white people.
- A list of frequently used terms broken down by race shows that white people are basically indie-rock lumberjacks.
- Straight men and women along with gay women talk about their sexuality while gay men focus on culture (e.g. “anything on bravo” (181)).
Are you appalled? Remember, this is not what we say we are or what we aspire to be. This is what big data analysis demonstrates we are, whether it sounds right or not.
Dataclysm is a fascinating look at human relationships that no survey could ever tell. It’s truly “Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking.”
—Christian Ridder, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2014).