Seems like I’ve been posting about personal matters a lot lately. But what’s personal and professional these days, anyway? Welcome to the new economy.
Speaking of the mixing of personal and professional… did someone say, online dating? Much as we hate to admit it, online dating is big business. And one built on pretty terrible economics for the end user. In particular, I’ve found one service particularly aggravating — surprisingly, the one with the best brand reputation: eHarmony.
Stick around, kids, you’ll learn some things about business — namely, a great way to save a couple hundred dollars!
I should probably do something about that.
I’m at a place in life where some classmates are celebrating five years of marriage and third children.
I’m a late bloomer here. A few years ago, this was a minor annoyance. Now it seems a bit more serious. So, after holding out for many years, I joined eHarmony.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was wrong.
I can fend for myself.
The first thing that struck me when using eHarmony is how paternalistic it is. Rather than the majority of other dating sites, eHarmony
censors “curates” matches only who it thinks would be really good for you.
What makes these matches so….matchy? eHarmony never says. Even OKCupid, a free service, gives you some indication about what makes your best matches so compatible.
But eHarmony, in its infinite wisdom, dare not walk you behind the curtain.
Border crossings…how romantic.
The mystery and power of the algorithm extends into ridiculous geographic criteria.
When I indicated a strong preference to meet women within 30 miles of me, eHarmony warned me “Take it easy! You won’t get many matches that way!” So I relented, and indicated distance was “somewhat important.”
Now I get matches from as far away as Toronto and Washington, D.C.
Because nothing says blossoming relationships like border crossings and highway rest stops.
There’s an idea of the “one true soulmate” in popular culture which online dating has only made stronger. eHarmony plays into this mentality by veiling its methods and selecting matches often hundreds of miles away.
What would a human do?
One of my favorite web design principles is “What would a human do?” When designing an interface, think about how an actual human would deliver the inputs, error messages, etc. to another human.
In real life, humans meet each other through conversation, often based on simple observations and questions. Small talk, right?
Not so eHarmony. Instead, use “guided communication.” It’s not a seance, rather a questionnaire you ask your match, after which they’ll send you a new questionnaire. Some of these questions are trivial, like what you like to do on the weekends. Others are quite personal, like thoughts on marriage and children.
All of them, however, are not what a human would do. Ever been handed a clipboard by a stranger and become great friends with them? I didn’t think so.
It works — but so do other things
We all hear the success stories of online dating. But how many people found no success online? We don’t hear about these. I wonder if there’s a reporting bias at work here.
Sure, online dating can help you find a compatible long-term partner — for a cost. But so could tossing dollar bills from the top of a high building. Are the odds better here? Possibly.
At least that would have been more entertaining than the current situation.
Preemptive comment — I am very happy for those who had success on eHarmony. I am simply stating that eHarmony’s design and user experience principles lead to poor results for the end user.