Ten fake profiles, one OkCupid experiment: OkCupid On Trial

Ten fake profiles, one OkCupid experiment: OkCupid On Trial

Summary: Ten fake OkCupid profiles show that men face extreme competition on digital dating websites.

SHARE:
28

This week, amateur data analyst Jon Millward published the results of ten fake OkCupid profiles to asess the male-female dynamic in online dating.

Way back before OkCupid was bought by Match.com they would do fantastic, fascinating and fun OkCupid Labs posts where they'd analyze their internal data and do really cool - and often helpful, controversial - writeups about the results.

Those blog posts no longer happen, and I think a lot of us miss them. We can fill the void a tiny bit with Millward's new, controversial OkCupid experiment.

Jon Millward (known to many for his Analysis of 5000 Call Girl Reviews and Life of a Call Girl: Fantasy vs. Reality) just posted the results of his newest project: OkCupid on Trial: A 4-month Online Dating Experiment Using 10 Fictional Singletons.

Do women really have it easier?

In online dating, especially in discussions about popular dating site OkCupid, it's a widely held belief that attractive young straight women have it easy.

Millward decided to put this to the test by making ten fake profiles to see what kind of results he'd get based purely on superficiality.

Keep in mind that Millward's experiment is hetero-focused, and "attractiveness" can be pretty subjective.

The profile photos Millward used for his experiment were voted on by three separate people who ranked them by who they thought was hot and what was not - or more correctly, what they likely thought other people on OkCupid might consider hot.

The judges were not too far off in guessing the attraction habits in the OkCupid pool used for the wider United States - though I do wonder who the real people are and how they'd feel if they found out about the results...

In the first 24 hours of the profiles being online:

  • Each woman received at least one message, but the two best looking women received 581% more messages than the other three combined.
  • Only one man received any messages.

In seven days of being live, the profiles delivered a fuller picture of the differences between the experiences of straight women and men on the service:

  • The most contacted woman had almost 17 times more messages in a week than the most contacted man.
  • Three of the men had no messages, despite their profiles being viewed about 25 times between them.
  • The women’s messages outnumbered the men’s 17 to 1 (mostly thanks to the two best looking women).
  • The two best looking men received 5 fewer messages than the 3rd and 4th best looking women.

He found that the gender-bias being in women's favor is certainly true in one respect: women do have it "easier" on OkCupid than men when it comes to attracting sheer volumes of attention.

OkCupid fake profiles

This might not surprise anyone, but seeing just how wide the gulf is between the sexes in a quick and dirty fake profile experiment is pretty eye-opening.

It also gives weight to gender stereotypes many people might find uncomfortable, such as relying on tropes of male agression and female passivity (receptivity) in social sexual situations.

And, it sadly appears here that girls with glasses still get the fuzzy end of the lollipop in mainstream dating.

Men face extreme competition in online dating

The difference in message volume holds up the truism that men encounter extreme competition in the online dating arena.

It's food for thought that while I know men who wish they got the kind of attention that "hot chicks" get on OkCupid, I know just as many more "hot chicks" on the site that find the attention unhelpful in finding someone they'd actually date.

Millward found out that the pretty-girl-gets-attention thing is not brain surgery, but online it's just like in real life - but that kind of attention is, like, on steroids.

However, after digging into it deeper he backed away from the statement that "women have it easier" when it comes to online dating.

Instead Millward concluded that while women may have wider selection capabilities, a number of girls are faced with a signal to noise ratio that can render the selection process into a null.

What's the "perfect" message?

Those of us who have come to expect the moon from Jon Millward's experiments won't be disappointed with the OkCupid experiment.

After his first results, he expanded the project and moved it to England just to see what kind of differences would emerge between the two English-speaking Western countries over time.

He found more of the same: The two most attractive women received 83% of all messages and probably would have gotten more if their inboxes hadn’t maxed out. He added:

It took 2 months, 13 days for the most popular woman’s inbox to fill up. At the current rate it would take the most popular man 2.3 years to fill up his.

After this, Millward started to feel empathy over the womens' bombardment.

So next he wondered, what were all these guys saying to the women - and how could a guy get his message to rise above the inbox noise?

With such heightened message volume to the most attractive (albeit fake) female dating profiles, Millward found himself in the unique position of being able to read all those messages - and see all the different ways that men competed for the attention and response of a single female when given only one chance to do so.

While I'd just as much like to know how women messaged the "attractive" men, seeing what happened in the most extreme area of competition is just as interesting.

After reading several hundred [messages] in the women’s inboxes, most men compliment the attractive women a lot, they make reference to something in the woman’s profile (you would not believe how many times men mentioned the party tricks and ‘Arrow’ the cheetah from the generic profile I wrote), or they ask a general question about travel or something equally boring.

Based on reading hundreds of eager messages, Millward concluded that a successful message should:

  • Demonstrate creativity, intelligence and great sense of humour
  • Be totally different to anything she may have received before
  • Be obviously unique and not a cut-and-paste job
  • Show that I’ve read her profile and absorbed facts about her
  • Not be needy!

The above suggestions may seem like basic advice, but a few of his conclusions are much trickier to execute than you'd think and show that few men (in the UK at least) show that they've read a girl's profile.

And when all you have to do is pay attention to rise above the fray, it doesn't seem so hard to compete with the masses after all.

This article is the first in a series on Pulp Tech about gaming OkCupid. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Topic: Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

28 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Interesting, but pointless

    The 'experiment' is interesting in theory, but completely worthless in practice. Without seeing a representative sample of the messages sent to each, we have no idea what the "Signal to noise" actually looks like.

    For all we know, the ratio may be similar for the men and women, but the women simply see a higher total volume. Since men outnumber women dramatically on dating sites, that's hardly surprising.

    Additionally, you have to ask what it says about the superficiality of women on dating sites that only the most physically attractive men had *any* messages after the first week.
    RvLeshrac
  • I had reviewed over 55 compatibility matching engines

    Since the beginning of 2003, I had been testing online dating sites -intended for serious daters- by creating dummy (fake) Male/Female profiles and using them as test points for reverse engineering purposes.

    Any dater can easily apply some reverse engineering methods over Match, PerfectMatch, eHarmony, Chemistry, Parship, Meetic, Be2 and others. It is quite easy although a bit time consuming and boring. You need to create at least 24 dummy (fake) profiles, 12 for Male and 12 for Female, each profile slightly different for the rest, as test points.
    The Online Dating Industry is performing like the Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Industry before the USA Food and Drug Administration was created.
    There is no/weak Legislation, no ID verification, low reliable background checks, no Quality Norms like ISO 9001:2008 for customer service, except for the Indian company Shaadi.
    The entire Online Dating Industry for serious daters in 1st World Countries is a HOAX, performing as a Big Online Casino, with a low effectiveness/efficiency level of their matching algorithms (less than 10%).

    WorldWide, there are over 5,000 -five thousand- online dating sites
    but no one is using the 16PF5 to assess personality of its members!
    but no one calculates similarity with a quantized pattern comparison method!
    but no one can show Compatibility Distribution Curves to each and every of its members!
    but no one is scientifically proven!
    FernandoArdenghi
    • Your issues with online dating sites

      I think you're putting way too much emphasis on the POTENTIAL of a matching system, even the most 'scientific', for matching people up based on assessments of their personalities. This just isn't how attraction works - similarity in some ways has been shown to predict rapport, but there's no way you could ever claim that two people could be happily paired up based on standardized testing of their personalities.

      Also, I don't think the comparison with online casinos is totally fair. Online dating sites charge you for the access they give to other people, what you do with that access is up to you. Apart from testing sites using dummy accounts, have you ever spent a lot of time on a site for personal use?

      I used OKCupid for several months in 2011 (way before I did the experiment that this write-up is about), and I've got to say that online dating is certainly a fool's game if - and it's a massive 'if' - you don't put the work into it that is requires to see success. It's just like going to a speed dating event then complaining that they didn't pair you up properly with people; the responsibility to appear attractive is always on you in the end. Anyone who believes that a site's matching system will magic love into their life is really naive or gullible. To be fair, I do agree that dating sites shouldn't claim as much as they do about what their 'scientific' matching systems can achieve - it's all baloney. What counts is your photos, your profile, the number of messages you send, the types of messages you send and your ability to turn a two-message exchange with another person into an interaction that happens away the site.

      So, in summary, if all you're saying is that online dating sites can't produce evidence that their matching systems work: I agree with you. If you're saying that they aren't using the right KIND of matching system, then I would argue that such a system doesn't exist. But the sites have to claim to do more than just show you other people to earn their money.
      JonMillward
      • The Online Dating Industry needs Innovations.

        OkCupid is for fun dating, for entertainment purposes, for instant gratifications; not for serious dating.
        Only 3 major discoveries can help to revolutionize the online dating industry.
        I) Several studies showing contraceptive pills users make different mate choices, on average, compared to non-users. "Only short-term but not long-term partner preferences tend to vary with the menstrual cycle"
        II) People often report partner preferences that are not compatible with their choices in real life. (Behavioural recommender systems or other system that learns your preferences are useless)
        III) What is important in attracting people to one another may not be important in making couples happy. Compatibility is all about a high level on personality similarity between prospective mates for long term mating with commitment.
        Also there is a similarity trilogy between genetic, mate choice and personality based recommender systems.
        You can read more, in my blog "Breaking the online dating sound barrier"
        FernandoArdenghi
    • 90% Of woman profiles are fake

      I have met 2 people on okcupid the first one in the beginning things were good but then the lady wasn't who she said that she was at all. She said she was a teacher and then said her job was honestly assistant teacher. Every weekend was going away and I never met her friends.

      the second lady she was better and was able to have a great conversation plus we had more in common than the first one in general. She broke up because she said want had a farm upstate around NYC and wanted a guy to live there with her. She still had pictures of her EX on Facebook you know.
      kevin_mooney2@...
  • OKCupid, entertainment purposes only?!

    [b]"OkCupid is for fun dating, for entertainment purposes, for instant gratifications; not for serious dating."[/b]

    Says who? I've spoken to at least 3 couples who met each other on OKCupid then at a later time got married and are [i]still[/i] married. How is that entertainment purposes? I think you're letting your own biases affect your appraisal of these sites, if I'm honest.
    JonMillward
    • Just because it's free doesn't mean it's not for serious dating

      I completely agree with you Jon. I met my now fianc?? through OKCupid two and a half years ago. Sure the quizzes and what not are entertaining, but if you actually put effort into it you can meet some great people.
      MissMissy404
    • Faake Profiles

      I think 90 % of girls on okcupid don't know what there are looking for and just playing a game that's all.
      kevin_mooney2@...
  • A dating site where the girls choose which guys to let in? GiggedyGoo!

    Just because it's free doesn't mean it's not for serious dating?/ Wrong!!!!

    There is a site which is up and coming called https://www.giggedygoo.com where every member has verified thier images using a special verification process to guarantee every member is genuine to thier images! This website is also the only place where only girls can let guys in by voting for them.... And it's 100% free!!! Neat!
    giggedygod
  • girls with glasses

    "And, it sadly appears here that girls with glasses still get the fuzzy end of the lollipop in mainstream dating. "

    Meh. I actually find girls with glasses appealing. But the particular girl/glasses combination they happened to choose, I found unattractive.
    The narrowness makes them look "cool", but in a non-friendly (ie "cold") way.
    Phil Brown
  • Phil Brown
  • What do you guys think about this approach???

    My friend made this video for a guy that she was attracted to on OkC after he didn't message her back. TWICE.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyuCR-nWBek
    teebexx
  • I'm bored...

    and I should have killed you yesterday.
    Jesse Kaellis
  • awesome and painful

    I have been on these dating websights (POF, OK cupid) and tried various angles on my profile, my opening email, photos,

    One profile I stated I was an alcholholic and showed dark photos, another I showed me wearing glasses, and drawing, one was all fun, one was actually from the heart. I still meet the same type of girls. I guess I am attractive enough I score 8.8 on hot or not when it was less about dating and more about ranking. I am a smart caring person, but can never seem to connect with someone on my level. I am not used to begging hot girls to go out with me. I have some amount of self respect and am not begging anyone for anything.
    So it is not something I am doing to get above the fray.

    The real sad part is, I am not even sure I would like these girls if I went to the trouble of attaining them. I need more than someone to look hot, at this stage of my life.
    bartenational
  • okcupid

    Unbelievably,this site put the results of a personality test in graph form on my profile without my permission and no immediate,or apparent.method of recourse. The graph clearly showed that my strongest trait,above all others, was aggressiveness. Obviously,it rendered my profile as useless as I couldn't imagine a more unattractive trait. What confused me was how the "bot" made this assessment,and why nothing could be done about it. I contacted the site admin and received no reply. Of course,it may have been absolutely correct and perhaps I am overly "aggressive" and simply in denial,but,seriously,should a bot,or admin,have the right to do this without providing evidence? The truth is that there is not one single person in my life that would describe me as such,and,if I was truly aggressive(like somebody that actually used violence and bullying)it would be quite easy to disguise it online by creating an obviously unaggressive persona. It was wrong and off-target in my case,which threw doubt on every profile on the site,so I deleted my account immediately. Let's face it,I could always go back to it with a fake profile,but okcupid has managed to completely kill my interest and enthusiasm. Why would they do this?
    Chimes Rbe
  • Ethics!?

    As an OKC user who recently came across a doppelganger profile using my OKC pix, I was pretty outraged/upset/confused.

    When a friend wrote to the profile holder (who incidentally said they were in Chicago - one of the cities that Millward used as a base for his profiles), they replied that they were doing some innocuous research and removed the pix.

    Ethical research would not use people's pictures without their permission. This kind of manipulation and misrepresentation of personal identities is appalling.

    Jon Millward would do well to learn himself some ethics/manners.
    googleprincessa
  • Awfully pale looking

    So, did you think about how your race effects how many people contact you? I see you used all white for your experiment.
    Heeheeha
    • re: awfully pale looking

      The OKC blog does it's own studies, similar to this, including one that took race into account. It was pretty dismal for we melanin-rich folks. I sort of lost faith in the site after that.
      eightyjane
      • re: awfully pale looking

        Ditto. After reading the race study and noting that Black women are largely ignored by daters of all races (and, living that for years with few messages received) I closed my account. Haven't used in years.
        Hope Single
  • I cry FOUL!

    I cry foul! You wouldn't try the same thing on e-harmony? You're judging OkCupid differently because it's free, but they both have VERY NECESSARY match algorithms. If you want random hookups, try another website. (Note: The guys try on OkCupid... I consider them morons.)

    Did you even answer the match questions? If you were a 0% match, I'd ignore you too, I don't care how pretty your profile looks. (Some of us actually are looking for something long term). If you can't be bothered to at least try the questions, you'll quit in a week, and I can't be bothered to try either. Usually, when a 0% match messages me, she's 'machinegunning' firing off a bunch of random messages looking for a hit. Usually, she quits for some reason before I actually get to her.

    Finally, not sure if they still do this, but they did prevent you from seeing most of the site to prevent you from being flooded with spam (the real danger). Their match algorithm is better than a certain website that claims to find your soulmate, if you know which one I'm talking about. (In my opionion). And it's better at directing spammers *drumroll please* TOWARDS OTHER SPAMMERS... yes that's right... there's a statistical possibility that as a noob user with fake accounts who answers no questions, you were matched with other noob users with fake accounts who answer no questions.

    Good luck, and 2 years later I still hate that this rediculous post shows up in the search results. XD Fix it already, WRITE A REAL ARTICLE!!!
    ShaunOfFacebook