July 17, 2010

"The online dating industry is even bigger than the porn industry, and more than 30 percent of first dates end up in coitus yet its customers are much less satisfied than the customers of the porn industry."

"Let me break it down for you, those who go out, partake in a social activity and perhaps later on, sleep with a living human being feel more miserable than those who look at naked women, with fake breasts, online, all day, and alone…. But why?"

Hmmm. What I wonder is: Why is he surprised? Real people — in the flesh — cause a lot of trouble. Works of art — including bad but amusing art like porn — can be enjoyed at leisure and turned off at will.

***

I arrived at the linked blog post — "Algorithmic Online Dating and the Paradox of Choice" — after I Googled "The Paradox of Choice," the title of a book that I referred to yesterday. This notion that choice won't make us happy is — or I've been calling it — a liberal meme.

From the Algorithmic Online Dating" post:
[Barry Schwartz’s "The Paradox of Choice"] basically says if you need a jar of jam and you go to a supermarket that has 3 types of jams you’ll leave much happier than when you go to a supermarket that has 30 different types of jams on the shelf. This is a beautiful dilemma, in the first case your chance of buying the best jam available is 33 percent and even if you fail to chose the best jam there is 66 percent chance that you will get at least the second best jam or better. In the second case the likelihood of buying the best available jam is only 3 percent. So you’ll be less happier knowing that you have probably selected the jam that is not the best.
But what do I care about whether I'm picking the best of the 3 things the store happens to have? It might have 3 mediocre jars of jam. A store with 30 jams probably has some excellent jams in there. Is Schwartz saying that when you can only see 3 jams, you don't get any big ideas about how good jam can be, so you're happy with Smucker's, but when you see 30 jams, you imagine that jam can be really amazing, and you're left feeling hollow and hopeless when the Bonne Maman doesn't give you an orgasm?
The problem is that assortative mating is a very complex game theoretical problem. If you have watched the movie, beautiful mind, you probably remember that John Nash (Russell Crowe) talks about the best strategy to get the blond lady!
Here. Watch that scene.
Now add 5 million more online single guys to the pool of competitors and you got yourself an unsolvable game theoretical problem....
Why? First of all, the John Nash character in the movie was talking about the group dynamic in a real-life room in which 4 males encounter 5 women. If the men all go for the most beautiful one — "the blonde" — then no one gets anyone because the guys block each other's way to "the blonde" and simultaneously alienate the 4 less-than-most-beautiful women. By contrast, a dating site is virtual space in which you interact one-to-one without seeing your rivals and without letting your target see her/his rivals. If you arrange to meet in the flesh, the rivals won't be there. Of course, it's probably going to go badly, but whose fault is that?

63 comments:

HDHouse said...

I had a client about 10 years ago that ran Nerve.com, an in your face NYC dating site. The entire object of the site was to hook up so I think that the 75,000 members it once had were at the far end of that percentage you quoted.

With dating sites it is the retention of the member, not sucking them in to begin with, that is the issue. After the fee is charged, the visits dwindle and renewal rates are pretty small. Poachers abound....and when you add it all up porn probably wins because sex, even though viewed, is a sure bet while "Perky-openminded-redhead" is probably not.

traditionalguy said...

IMO you are over thinking yourself into a problem. God/Nature has 50+ personality types and 10 hair colors and 3 body types and people with different attachment styles all out there. Go out and enjoy your crafty self as you multiply. I add multiply just to piss off the Greens who really want everyone to be forced by Marxist poverty to rid the world of so many nubile and fascinating souls, the jealous SOBs.

edutcher said...

If you pick the hot-looking one, it doesn't necessarily follow that she's hot where it counts. As they told us in theology many moons ago, the little quiet one with the glasses may turn out to be the one who's tons of fun.

Ann Althouse said...

If the men all go for the most beautiful one — "the blonde"

Ann, you above all people know The Blonde is mine.

GMay said...

Adding on to HDH's comment, pile on the fact that most guys will get maybe one response per 10 attempts if they're lucky and that women get overwhelmed by stupid come-ons on those sites and it's just too much work and frustration.

Surfing for porn doesn't take anywhere near the time or the cost of landing and going on a date, and you get to fantasize better sex than your newfound hook-up is probably capable of.

AllenS said...

Blondes--

Most time the curtains don't match the carpeting.

Fred4Pres said...

I am not sure I would classify most porn as art. I am not saying it is not possible, but the vast majority is not art. But there is also little surprise from porn. You know what it is and it generally meets what you would expect.

On line dating involves high expectations and then a high percentage of rejection. So yeah, I can see why that would depress some one. Plus people who are into on line dating are often years from a serious relationship, or on the rebound from divorce or seperation, and of course there is a small bunch who go to such services to get some strange on the side.

GMay said...

"If you pick the hot-looking one, it doesn't necessarily follow that she's hot where it counts."

Amen. Also, 9 out of 10 of them will have waaaaay too much baggage as a result of that hotness.

I think it was Howard Stern (maybe?) who said something to the effect of "Next time you see a really hot chick, realize that there's a guy somewhere who's already sick and tired of her bullshit."

c3 said...

Again with the "choice" thing!?

(With a little spice added)

Professor, I believe you're selling something that folks aren't buying

Richard Dolan said...

Anyone who could write that "assortative mating is a very complex game theoretical problem" isn't interested in real-life dating games or how men and women interact or why, but only in abstract mathematics. It's a common problem in economics too, and in any field focused on constructing mathematical modelling of human behaviour. The models can be useful but it's essential to remember that they are reductionist techniques based on mechanistic principles that never quite fit with the reality being modeled.

WV: nessency. Perfect.

Trooper York said...

Or you could just start a blog and eventually some dude will hit on you.

Just sayn'

GMay said...

TY FTW

c3 said...

Or you could just start a blog and eventually some dude will hit on you.

Just sayn'


Ouch

edutcher said...

AllenS said...

Blondes--

Most time the curtains don't match the carpeting.


She has to let you in first before you can see.

stoqboy said...

The grocery store where I shop has a whole section devoted to beer, hundreds of beers. This makes me very happy. I can try a different kind of beer each time I go, and if I never find the best beer, it won't make me less happy.

Zach said...

This is yet another case where the "paradox of choice" has a much more prosaic explanation.

There's a very good analysis of such sites here:
http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2010/04/07/why-you-should-never-pay-for-online-dating/

Summary: women get far too many low-value messages, men get far too few replies, almost all profiles are dead.

As I said in the Amazon thread, you can't confuse the implementation of an idea with the idea itself. So many people sign up for those sites, you'd expect there would be a big opening for anybody who could make it work. For whatever reason, the current generation of sites doesn't work very well.

Class factotum said...

sleep with a living human being feel more miserable than those who look at naked women

Maybe because one-night stands make some people feel cheap, lonely and used?

Freeman Hunt said...

I like that Bonne Maman jam. I also like having lots and lots of choices. Even better if there's lots and lots of information I can use to evaluate them. But even without the information, I like the choices.

As for online dating, I don't have any experience with that, but it seems possible that people might go into it with unrealistic expectations. You have a site with an expansive "menu" of people you can "order up" for a date. That's probably what it seems like to some people when they sign up. But dating isn't a computer program. It's human and messy, and things don't always come out how you'd like or expect.

Scott M said...

30%? Really? That's a helluva lot better odds than clubbing. From the male perspective, that is. We all know the female clubbing coitus average can be 100% should said she choose.

Big Mike said...

Without alternatives to choose among there is no progress.

blake said...

Careful what you wish for?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I never thought too much about the on line dating sites like E Harmony except to wonder if my husband and I filled out the questionaire, would the program find us compatable. We are very happy together and decided that we wouldn't want a computer to screw it up.

We have a couple who are good friends with us, and we get along with them very well and have a lot of fun and laughs when we get together. My husband and I don't socialze very much and don't have a lot of friends: so this is a big deal. They are a little older than we are, in their mid 60's and it is a third marriage for each of them.

The other day, they confessed that they had met on E Harmony and communicated across the country by email for almost a year before they actually met. They haven't told many people, including some family members because they felt that people would look upon it as strange.

No point to this story other than...it seemed to work in their case. They are compatable and extremely happy and would never ever have met each other if not for the internet dating program.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Dating in America will always be unsatisfying until women and men wake up and decide that they would prefer to show other people what they have to offer rather than scheme their way into determining whether other people measure up to their fantastical "standards". They approach it with the completely wrong attitude: The American attitude. Me.Me.Me.

But it can't be all about you when it comes to relationships.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

lol -- 11:16 AM.

I was thinking the same thing.

Gene said...

AllenSMost time the curtains don't match the carpeting.

Catty, well said, and delightfully funny, all at the same time.

traditionalguy said...

The E-Harmony site is based upon matching Myers-Briggs types. They don't work unless people want relationships as much as they say they do. New relationships are hard work.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Real people — in the flesh — cause a lot of trouble. Works of art — including bad but amusing art like porn — can be enjoyed at leisure and turned off at will.

I have the ability to turn off real women at will. I'm so good at it, I can do it without even trying.

GMay said...

Ritmo said: "Dating in America will always be unsatisfying until women and men wake up and decide that they would prefer to show other people what they have to offer rather than scheme their way into determining whether other people measure up to their fantastical "standards"."

This +1000

Big Mike said...

Some forty years ago very wise person counseled me that it was smart to head for the 2nd-prettiest woman in the room, since all the other single men would be making fools of themselves over #1.

I did well with that rule, and I broke it only once.

She and I have been married for 35 years now.

ricpic said...

Hey, I love Smucker's!

Ralph L said...

Most time the curtains don't match the carpeting.
Peter says it's usually tile flooring and it sucks.

The liberal "choice" meme reminds me of the Wendy's ad with the Soviet fashion show. For evening wear, the woman carries a flashlight.

Penny said...

"Of course, it's probably going to go badly, but whose fault is that?"

Odds are, it's the pessimist's fault.

Revenant said...

The examples of choice being bad never seem, to me, to be measuring choice. They seem to be measuring ignorance. I have a hard time believing that a person faced with three kinds of jam is really "happier" if he knows the other 27 kinds exist and simply aren't offered at his supermarket.

Penny said...

And so I need to ask, when was the last time you had jam you didn't like?

Revenant said...

Actually I dislike all forms of jam that are not contained in a doughnut. :)

ironrailsironweights said...

Most time the curtains don't match the carpeting.

More likely, the carpeting has been pedophilically shaved into oblivion. God damn it.

Peter

Shawn L. said...

Hey!

I met my wife on a dating site.

(Of course, we're divorcing, so make of that what you will.)

J.R. said...

Maybe you could expand on this and earn your own Nobel Prize. It's an interesting theory. The dating world is much more complex now than in Nash's day.

Penny said...

"Works of art — including bad but amusing art like porn — can be enjoyed at leisure and turned off at will."

Althouse seems to be making a case for new and improved robots.

Haha We could blow our robot's mind by UNSCREWING it!

Penny said...

"The dating world is much more complex now than in Nash's day."

It surely seems to be, and it was obviously hard enough back then.

Some say it is about luck, or money, or good looks. Maybe "times at bat" which seem to be increasing exponentially via the internet. I've always thrown my hat into the "timing" ring with nostrils wide open for the pheromones.

Then again...Perhaps you would care to massage my brain?

Nice! Very nice!

Freeman Hunt said...

They seem to be measuring ignorance. I have a hard time believing that a person faced with three kinds of jam is really "happier" if he knows the other 27 kinds exist and simply aren't offered at his supermarket.

Good point. Nobody likes to go into a store for something only to find that this particular store doesn't carry it.

Take, for example, trash compactor bags. I hate the plastic ones. When I go into a store that only carries the plastic ones, my thought is not, "Woohoo! I've selected the best bags in the store." My thought is, "This store sucks."

Freeman Hunt said...

And the whole idea that we should be concerned with the "diversity" of people's shopping selections reminds me of that loathsome character in Atlas Shrugged who wants book runs limited to only a few thousand copies so that people will make a more "diverse" selection of books.

Jeremy said...

The trouble with online dating is that people seem to treat it like Amazon.com or other services. Unless you are really attractive, you mostly just get ignored.

I've been using them for 11 years now, I've met one woman, that was 8 years ago. These days I literally can't even get a reply from anyone I write.

mishu said...

More likely, the carpeting has been pedophilically shaved into oblivion. God damn it.


I've found this assertion silly. When a woman prefers her man to have his face clean shaven, is she a pedophile? Grooming is grooming. Technology has allowed it to advance to other areas. If you don't like it, there are other choices much to the dismay of Barry Schwartz.

Koblog said...

I agree limiting choice is a liberal meme. But it's not American.

I used to ponder the effect on a Soviet citizen -- who was living in privation under the ultimate liberal meme -- the many brands of toilet paper I could choose from at my local supermarket, and that the supermarket was readily accessible to all Americans and rarely if ever had a supply problem.

The downfall of Soviet Communism would have been swifter.

"Choice" is a weapon for good.

Under Obamacare, however, the answer to finding a mate is obvious: the State must select one for you. I believe it's on page 2352: subsection A: paragraph 7b.

It's clear that such an important, complex and difficult life decision must be made by our betters and not left to the confused masses.

Gedaliya said...

I've been using them for 11 years now, I've met one woman, that was 8 years ago. These days I literally can't even get a reply from anyone I write.

Do you have a hideous skin disease? If not, perhaps you should try another tack.

Milwaukee said...

I think the best response so far is
Class factotum said...

sleep with a living human being feel more miserable than those who look at naked women

Maybe because one-night stands make some people feel cheap, lonely and used?


Should you make a really excellent choice with the jam, in some period of time the jar will be empty, and you'll need to return to a store and get some more. Unless you're goal in dating is to get laid, just getting laid isn't doing the job.

John Gottman figures that every couple has intractable issues: successful couples figure out how to navigate those issues. When groups were more homogeneous, people were selecting from a smaller, more homogeneous pool, chances of finding a compatible partner increased. Younger people tend to be more attracted to their opposites than older people, and younger marriages tend to be more likely to end in divorce than older partnerships.

No doubt the free and easy sex lives help contribute to the cause. Why are 30% of first dates ending in coitus? Is that the purpose of dating, or is dating part of courting, and a start of a potentially permanent relationship? Since women are now liberated, and get to have the same sex drives as men, and use men the way men have used women, as sexual objects, why is this a problem?

Sociologist marveled when girls started becoming more sexually active than before, and becoming more aggressive towards engaging in sex. The joke was that the difference between a sophomore girl and a toilet was that a toilet didn't follow you around when you were done with it. Perhaps the problem with coitus on the first date is that there are problems with expectations.

JorgXMcKie said...

This whole "Paradox of Choice" idiocy/meme rests on three problematic assumptions that I haven't seen discussed much. [Or perhaps these are 'oughts' rather than assumptions -- i.e. assumptions of what the choosing behavior *should* look like.]

1) there is [at least for any given individual] a 'perfect' choice.

2) the person choosing knows what the perfect choice 'looks' like.

3) the person choosing knows how to develop a choosing mechanism that will lead to finding the choice in 2).

I call shenanigans. There is pretty much zero proof that there is ever a perfect choice [my choice in a grocery store may well change day-to-day]. Most people don't seem to have any idea what a *perfect* choice would look like, anyway [most seem, rather, to discard things that don't meet some standard]. Most people don't even come close to having a rational choosing methodology [and I'm not excusing myself].

Again, this fallacy is apparently driven by those types who believe in 'perfectibility'. Sheesh.

MrMaryk said...

Ann,

Your point about the 3 vs 30 jams and the paradox of choice is interesting. Yes, they do mean that. If you don't know how good it could be, you will think you are satisfied with what you have. This "paradox of choice" is a fancy, scientific-sounding way of saying ignorance is bliss.

Michael said...

I still say (From the Amazon thread) that they have misstated the decision theory. When confronted by too many choices, most people avoid choosing at all.

Oh and "Next time you see a really hot chick, realize that there's a guy somewhere who's already sick and tired of her bullshit." actually says "For every beautiful woman, there is a guy who is tired of f**king her."

Eric said...

No point to this story other than...it seemed to work in their case. They are compatable and extremely happy and would never ever have met each other if not for the internet dating program.

Most of the marriages in my social circle in recent years have been the product of online dating. I can't decide if this is some kind of cultural shift or if it's a function of the people I know.

Eric said...

When you go looking for porn you want to see some variety of sex act, which is pretty easy for a company to provide.

Many people who go to online dating sites are looking for a life partner, something the company can't provide directly and may be impossible in some cases. It's not surprising the dating customers are less happy.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've been using them for 11 years now, I've met one woman, that was 8 years ago. These days I literally can't even get a reply from anyone I write."

Write to less and less attractive women until you reach your appropriate level.

Ann Althouse said...

Seriously. I'm not trying to be rude. The chances that this person will be fun to be with are just as good as if she were more attractive, but on attractiveness, you have to find your league. Find it, and move forward.

atlharp said...

Overall, I think this whole liberal meme is just bad case of projection. Liberals I believe have not found happiness in choice (or in this case, choices which they have made), so ergo, choice cannot make you happy. Never forget every conclusion from the left is from their unyielding perspective. If they had half a brain they would have figured out it is that sound judgment is the thing that makes people happy. Unfortunately, that has never been an option for the left since the 60's.

Jum said...

There is a 100% chance that anyone who gives you the Left's sermon-of-the-moment known as "Too Many Choices Make You Unhappy", really means, "Your Choices Make ME Unhappy, So For Your Own Good I'm Going To Make Them For You".

The social engineers and nanny-staters don't give a rat's ass about you: they just use "helping language" because it camouflages their real designs. True believers in the supremacy of the state can't afford clarity in word, deed or thought.

Greg said...

I tend to see these two phenomena as related.

If you're going to use pornography as your standard of what sex is, then you're going to be unsatisfied with real sex. It's the same reason why Cosmo has four billion sex tips in every issue.

People have been told for the past several decades that sex is a purely physical experience, or that it should be. The pro-choice movement, to use a contentious example, has been pushing this idea that a woman can achieve sexual freedom if only sex is shorn its purpose. Sex isn't about reproduction or love, we're taught, it's about pleasure.

Porn embodies this attitude. So when you go out and just try to get laid, and it turns out you weren't banging some surgically enhanced barbie doll who thinks faking an orgasm on camera will make up for the fact that daddy didn't come to any of her dance recitals, you're going to be disappointed.

Maybe people would be more satisfied in their dealings with real people if they didn't treat real people like marital aids.

Peter said...

The problem with today's relationships is the odd idea that "I will find someone that makes me happy." Since happiness is an inside job, the relationship fails.

I am not sure that we weren't better off with arranged marriages. A whole lot of those worked out well, people knew that they were responsible for their own happiness.

Every happily married couple I know that has, say, a twenty+ year track record has one thing going for them. They each have their own interests. This does not say they do not share any interests but they each have some separate, too. Without this, couples grind on each other, eventually they have been ground down so much they no longer fit.

As to the choices, I've made mine, or perhaps, Linda Lou made it for me. Oh well, the youngest kids are almost 30 so I guess at least one of us chose well. Too bad we didn't choose a little more money but, so it goes.

Peter said...

Oh, and porn? I don't dare. After this many years with my Linda Lou I don't want to see those young girls. I look at them and then when sex night rolls around, every two-three months, just like clockwork (sigh) and I've been looking at those young girls, Mama pulls up her nightgown, I burst into tears, she wants to know what's wrong...
course it'd be even worse if she were looking at those young men.

Had to go and get old. Couldn't die young and leave a good lookin' corpse, no, had to go and get old. The grandkids might be worth it, though. Wanna see pictures?

bagoh20 said...

For a man, porn is a paycheck - dating is a job.

LarryK said...

Econ geek comment to follow, but that scene in "A Beautiful Mind" has absolutely nothing to do with Nash's actual work. The movie scene could be an illustration/example of co-operative game theory, whereas Nash focused entirely on competitive or non-cooperative game theory. His Nobel Prize-winning contributions concern how to determine the equilibrium of a game where each person is continually reacting to someone else's reactions (e.g. player A's decision depends on how player B reacts to what A does, but B's decision depends in turn on what A chooses etc. etc.). This had been a sticking point that kept competitive game theory from getting very far compared with co-operative game theory, which was already somewhat advanced by then.
Nash re-imagined this problem in an innovative way and solved for the equilibrium as a fixed point in strategy space (unlike say the standard economics equilibrium of a price that equates quantity supplied with quantity demanded, and is a fixed point in price-quantity space, where supply and demand curves are independent of each other). This became known as the "Nash equilibrium" and was the springboard for several other articles by Nash and, in fact, became the foundation for all non-cooperative game theory to follow.
I know you were all just dying to know that...but it kind of sticks in my craw that the example in the movie is practically the opposite of Nash’s actual work.
And of course that's not the only misleading part of the movie. The real story of why Nash lost his marbles is more interesting - and much less politically correct - than the Hollywood version. If you want to know more check out Sylvia Nasar's book of the same name.

Claire said...

Dating wasn't easier in Nash's days, and having more choice isn't any more of a problem than having to choose between 100 TV channels. It's beyond me why any sane person would prefer to go back to the "good old days" where there was a choice of only 3 TV networks to view on TV. Today's online dating has so many options, it's amazes me every time. I recently joined a dating site - www.isingles.co.uk - that provides the ability to communicate with other users (hundreds online) in a virtual room. Why would anyone want to give that up just to go meet someone at a bar with only 20 people in it?

Milwaukee said...

Women increase their chances of receiving solicitations from online dating sites by being attractive. Men increase theirs by being wealthy.

There isn't a man low enough that he can't go lower and find a dog and a woman to go with him.

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