We interviewed the founders of OkCupid, one of the most successful online dating sites, for a chapter on “How to Find Love Online” in our book “The Art of Doing.” Although the founders claim no lothario-like superpowers—based on their teeming mass of statistical data and observational evidence they can advise us on how to find someone online who will love us for who we really are.
Many people believe that when seeking a partner online they should try to appeal to the largest possible pool of people.
Sam Yagan, a co-founder of OKCupid described how he has seen this mindset play out time and again. “We see so many images [on the site] that are designed to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait, like the close-cropped picture of a person who’s overweight,” said Yagan.
This may sound like a sensible romantic strategy—why eliminate possible partners by revealing the scar on one side of your face or the fact that you’re obsessed with Star Wars kitsch?
An excessive concern for what other people think inevitably leads to what Carl Jung famously described as a persona, in Jung’s words "a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual."
Yagan describes the fallacy of this please-them-all approach. When someone posts an attractive profile photo that reveals nothing about their inner life, he told us, that sort of image may generate a positive response but it’s not likely to lead to simpatico matches. “Getting 99% of the people to kind of like you is a waste of time,” Yagan said.
So if constructing a cleaned-up, generic version of our online selves is not the way to find love—then what is?
First of all you want to cast off the idea of creating a false identity based on what you think will appeal to others. Next you have to have the courage to present an accurate reflection of your true self.
The OkCupid founders not only encourage us to describe what we love—films, books, bars and bands—but to go one step further and actually accentuate our eccentricities. “If Dungeons and Dragons is your thing you want that person who will say: ‘Oh my god! You love D and D? I do too!’” Yagan told us. “Women with tattoos and piercings have an intuitive understanding that when they show off what makes them different some people won’t like it, but they’ll get lots of attention from the men who do.”
In fact OkCupid’s data show that men message women who they believe appeal only to them before messaging women who they believe will appeal to everyone. “If you have something that makes you unique, even if some might consider it a flaw, flaunt it,” says Yagan. “Flaunt your big nose, curvy full figure or weird snaggletooth, and you’ll attract that kind of person who finds it exciting.”
In other words, if you want to find true romance, Yagan advises, “Look for the 1% who will love you for who you really are.”
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