About a third of single Americans are using online dating sites to find love and companionship. These sites aren’t the first technology that’s changed the way we date and think about relationships, but they’re dramatically changing the game. We explore the history of dating technology, how it works and its broader effect on our social dynamics.

Guests

  • Dan Slater author, "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating"

Transcript

  • 13:22:25

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIStats like that are one reason a third of single American adults are dipping into the online dating pool, looking for love, companionship and compatibility that will translate from an internet questionnaire to a dinner date. And with any luck a lasting relationship. But have our expectations kept pace with reality and how are these sites changing the way we interact in real life? Here to explain how technology is affecting matters of the heart is Dan Slater. He's a journalist and author of the book "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating." Dan Slater, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 13:23:05

    MR. DAN SLATERHello, Mr. Nnamdi. Thank you for having me.

  • 13:23:07

    NNAMDIYou're more than welcome. You too can join this conversation. Call us at 800-433-8850. If you've used online dating sites we'd like to hear about your successes and failures, 800-433-8850. Dan, before we even get to online dating, let's go farther back. What technologies spurred a move from courting and calling to dating more or less as we know it today?

  • 13:23:34

    SLATERThere are a lot of them, but back around 1920 or so the main ones were the cinema and the car. These two devices provided a sort of island of privacy where people could finally move out of their parents' home and, you know, find a spot to be alone.

  • 13:23:52

    NNAMDIWhere you didn't have to occupy the living room of the parents for two or three hours in the evening and find someplace else to go, the automobile, the cinema. Computer dating, however, goes back to the early days of technology. And it is my understanding that your own parents were paired up by a computer known as Eros. How did those early programs work?

  • 13:24:13

    SLATERYes. I think that the Washington Post on Friday referred to me as the poster boy of computer dating. I don't know if I can say that or not. But, yeah, my mom and dad met through a computer-dating service in 1965. So back then one of the devices used was called the Honeywell 200 and it was probably about the size of your studio.

  • 13:24:33

    SLATERAnd the way that it would work is that you were probably a college student if you were using these devices or if you were using these services. And you would get a questionnaire slid under your -- you know, the door of your dorm room. And you would fill it out and you'd return it with your subscription fee. And unlike the 20 or 30 or $40 it is today, back then it was about 3 or $4.

  • 13:24:55

    SLATERAnd then all the answers to the questionnaire would get switched onto a punch card, which was like a voting card and it would get slid through these enormous computers. And then, you know, the device would spit out a sheet with five or six of your matches on it. And then you would actually get sent that in the mail. So...

  • 13:25:13

    NNAMDIWhen the internet first brought online dating basically as we know it now onto the scene in the mid '90s as opposed to the card being spit under our door -- placed under our door in the 1960s, in the 1990s there was a lot of stigma associated with it. It remains so some extent but how did we come to greater acceptance?

  • 13:25:35

    SLATERI think -- there were a lot of reasons. I think one of the main reasons is that obviously online dating is working for a lot of people. I mean, you mentioned at the beginning of the segment that one in five, you know, relationships now originates online. A third of -- you know, a third of 90 million single Americans are using online dating. It seems to work for a lot of people. I think if it didn't work the stigma would still be there.

  • 13:26:02

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you think the stigma surrounding online dating is completely gone or have you found that it remains, 800-433-8850? Sent email to kojo@wamu.org. You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or simply go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Our guest is Dan Slater. He's a journalist, author of the book "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating."

  • 13:26:29

    NNAMDIDan, some sites have involved questionnaires to fill out. Others ask relatively few questions. What did you learn about how these matching algorithms measure compatibility and how well they do it?

  • 13:26:42

    SLATERWell, there's a big debate in the industry right now as to how accurate an algorithm actually can be in predicting at least long term compatibility. So there are a lot of sites out there that will say in the advertising, they'll show you, you know, a couple frolicking off in, you know, the park. And they'll say, look it's a 50-year, you know, marriage and it, you know, began online or something like that. And the idea is that this site can help you find your soul mate.

  • 13:27:07

    SLATERThat is sort of a debated claim right now. Those in academics say that, you know, the people who study social science will say, well that's an unproven ability. And, in fact, no one has ever shown inability to predict long term compatibility between two strangers.

  • 13:27:26

    NNAMDISome sites are pretty good but they're not necessarily getting people, as you say, to their 70th anniversary. They may hit it off on the first date, but eHarmony promises your soul mate with the click of a button. Academics who have been studying these relationships have looked over a century of data and they haven't really seen any proven ability to support that, correct?

  • 13:27:48

    SLATERNo, they, you know, have not. But out of fairness to the people who are running the online dating industry, if you speak to the online dating users, one thing that you'll hear on sort of an anecdotal level is that a lot of users have been very impressed with the ability of a dating site to predict whether or not they will hit it off with someone on a first date. Now anyone who's ever dated knows that it's a huge leap to get from a good first date to a long term relationship.

  • 13:28:18

    SLATERBut, you know, that seems like a pretty big innovation and it seems like an ability that might improve over time as these sites accumulate more and more data about us.

  • 13:28:27

    NNAMDIMy understanding is that if you say at some of these sites that you want one thing, a long term relationship for example, on a questionnaire but only interact with potential dates who don't say the same in their profile, these sites will adjust accordingly.

  • 13:28:46

    SLATERYes.

  • 13:28:46

    NNAMDIThat if for instance you say, as I said earlier, you want a long term relationship and their algorithms notice that the people you check up on are people who will say they simply want to hook up or want a one-night stand, that they'll actually start sending you to people like that. Is that something that you, the user, are made aware of or does that happen like automatically?

  • 13:29:08

    SLATERThat's something that happens automatically. And it's really one of the many things that online dating sites do to, you know, enhance the efficiency of their sites. Because if you have a woman on there who's looking for marriage, she'll be very unhappy if she winds up on a date with a guy who she thought was also looking for the same thing, but is actually looking for something else. The will resolve probably in a bad experience for her and she'll leave your site.

  • 13:29:34

    SLATERSo the idea is to match up people who actually do want the same thing. And so a lot of sites are ignoring increasingly what their users say and just focusing on what they actually do.

  • 13:29:46

    NNAMDIIt's the algorithm saying you, you, you, you liar you.

  • 13:29:50

    SLATERExactly.

  • 13:29:50

    NNAMDIHere is Sarah in Springfield, Va. Sarah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:29:55

    SARAHHi there. I used both Match.com and eHarmony, the two biggies, ever since 2004 at my girlfriend's encouragement. And she met her husband on Match.com. And what I found with eHarmony, and that will focus on, you know, the algorithms and everything, was that I met people that were really, really, really nice people. But the thing was there was so much between us and meeting and actually having good discussions that by the time we actually got to possibly meeting, you know, we were pretty, you know, all in. And it turned out that there was very little physical chemistry.

  • 13:30:43

    SARAHWhereas on Match.com you had a lot more opportunity to kind of put out there what your likes or dislikes were. You could also look at the physical aspects, which I think are kind of important. And I have to tell you, I met a lot of really great guys on match.com who are still very good friends of mine. But I also met my husband there. And, you know, I think that the algorithms are just not very good at discerning what you're going to be able to do long term.

  • 13:31:19

    SARAHBecause I'll tell you this, when I met my husband, our lives were in a very different spot than they are at this point. And the fact that we had the same sense of humor, that we were attracted to each other, that we kind of, you know, got on the same page early on is what has carried us through a lot of life changes that, I'm sorry, an algorithm just cannot predict. I mean, we are in a different state.

  • 13:31:44

    NNAMDIBut Sarah, but you met your husband there, Sarah.

  • 13:31:51

    SARAHYes.

  • 13:31:52

    NNAMDISo don't you think the algorithm...

  • 13:31:53

    SLATERWell, no. But, you know, part of what Sarah is saying is absolutely right, in that, you know, she's saying essentially what the social scientists are saying. They're saying, you know, you take a couple people who've never met and you don't know how they're going to behave as a couple. You don't know how they're going to deal with things like stress as a couple. You don't know how they will deal with something like what if one of them loses a job, how are they going to handle that?

  • 13:32:17

    SLATERWhereas if you have a couple that's already together then it is possible to see them interact and to predict to some extent how long they're going to remain together.

  • 13:32:27

    NNAMDIOkay. That makes sense. Sarah, thank you very much for your call. Technology has obviously changed our lives in countless ways, but it can't live our lives for us, which is, I guess, what both you and Sarah were saying. Why do you think it's so difficult to manage people's expectations of what they'll get from these sites. Of course most of the people who run these sites are the first to admit that they don't know a great deal about dating. Math they know. Romance, I guess, not so much.

  • 13:32:54

    SLATERI think there's a tendency in our society to see a technology out there, whether it's your iPhone, whether it's a dating site and to perhaps put a lot of stock in what it might be able to do for you. We have very high expectations when it comes to technology. And oftentimes I think that when people approach online dating sites, especially if they haven't been generally unhappy with their relationship lives, you know, before that, they tend to look at the site as a possible cure-all for everything that's wrong.

  • 13:33:29

    SLATERAnd when the site winds up not to be a cure-all, when it winds up just to be a tool to help you, I think people can be disappointed when the site doesn't live up to their expectations.

  • 13:33:40

    NNAMDIOur guest is Dan Slater. He is a journalist and author of the book "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating." Our number is 800-433-8850. Did you or someone you know meet a mate online? What advice would you pass along to others hoping to do the same? You can simply go to our website kojoshow.org to ask a question or make a comment, or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Here is Maggie in Baltimore, Md. Maggie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:34:10

    MAGGIEHi.

  • 13:34:12

    NNAMDIHi, Maggie.

  • 13:34:13

    SLATERHello, Maggie.

  • 13:34:13

    MAGGIEHi. Hello. I actually met my husband online but not through a dating website necessarily. It was on Craigslist.

  • 13:34:23

    NNAMDIHow did that work?

  • 13:34:24

    SLATERThis is a common thing, yeah.

  • 13:34:25

    MAGGIEYeah, it was -- I actually used it for a while. It was actually the first time he had ever written up anything. I never wrote anything up. I just followed men looking for women. And for me it wasn't obviously the algorithm. It was more of a, -- like you said, more of a tool. It definitely helped to meet people. I was new to Baltimore at that point and it was a lot of fun. It was a huge confidence booster. And then when Dan came along it was the right time for both of us I think and we clicked. And now we have a baby.

  • 13:35:06

    NNAMDICare to comment on that, Dan Slater, Craigslist?

  • 13:35:08

    SLATERWell, yeah, I mean, when I was reporting "Love in the Time of Algorithms, you know, I interviewed a little bit over 100 online daters. But not all of them were online daters per say. Some of them were people who had met their mate through a site that was maybe a social network, like a Craigslist sort of is but not really dating sites. So for instance, I met people who had met their mate in a place like Yelp.

  • 13:35:34

    SLATERAnd when you think about it, Yelp can actually be a pretty effective dating site because it's very local. All the people are making these comments about their local -- you know, their coffee shops, the cafes, etcetera. And you can also post a photograph and maybe meet around the corner. So that sort of thing is happening, I think, increasingly as we live more and more of our lives online.

  • 13:35:58

    NNAMDIMaggie, thank you very much for your call. You know, these sites don't just change the way we meet potential mates. Much of our culture of romance is built around the idea of serendipity, just kind of a happenstance meeting. But these sites kind of make this long-held romantic notion stand on its head. Where do serendipity and technology diverge and is there any overlap?

  • 13:36:22

    SLATERThat's a great question and, you know, you were -- you asked me earlier about the source of the stigma. And I didn't mention this but I think it's a big factor. We really love serendipity because it's very romantic. It's this idea that, you know, our relationships are sort of fated to happen. And it's also fun to have a story about the way that you met your wife or your husband. And it's fun to be able to tell that story down the road.

  • 13:36:50

    SLATERAnd I think the way that online dating is perceived is that it sort of robs you of your story because it's not much of a story to say, well we met online. You know, the conversation kind of comes to a close when you say that online.

  • 13:37:02

    NNAMDIWell, how about if your story is that my wife and I met at the intersection of serendipity and technology, which is my understanding is your own story, Dan, that you met your wife first in a yoga class, right?

  • 13:37:19

    SLATERYeah, yeah, well, exactly, exactly.

  • 13:37:21

    NNAMDISerendipity...

  • 13:37:21

    SLATERSo technology...

  • 13:37:22

    NNAMDI... and then later technology.

  • 13:37:23

    SLATER...there was a lot of serendipity. Exactly. So we met in a yoga class. When I first got up the courage to ask her out on a date she said no because she had a boyfriend. So I sort of slinked away. And, you know, a couple of years passed and I started to work on this book. And in the middle of it I was on Facebook one day and her face popped up in that right-hand column of the people you may know. And I said, oh that -- you know, there's Sophie, you know, the yoga instructor who rejected me. And so that was the way we got back together.

  • 13:37:55

    SLATERBut you're absolutely right. There was sort of a real world serendipitous element, but there was, you know, a technological one as well.

  • 13:38:02

    NNAMDIHe personifies the intersection. On to Theresa in Arlington, Va. Theresa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:38:09

    THERESAHi. Thanks for taking my call. I was just -- I have done match.com, eHarmony. And then there used to be a thing called matchmaker.com, which I think is not...

  • 13:38:19

    SLATERThat was the first one.

  • 13:38:21

    THERESAYes.

  • 13:38:21

    SLATERThat was the first ever online dating service back in the early '80s.

  • 13:38:24

    THERESAYes, well, I'm older than most. And frankly I've met my long term partner, a gentleman on a gaming site, on a word game site. So -- but I was saying that the ones that did the least amount of work, the questionnaires that had the least amount of questions on them seemed to work better than something like eHarmony, which made you fill out this enormously long questionnaire. Because it seemed like within all of those questions people have the tendency to write down what their ideal of what they thought they were rather than the proof of what they were.

  • 13:39:00

    SLATERRight.

  • 13:39:02

    THERESABecause the questions were so searching and, you know, you get angry easily and who's going to say yes, you know. So then eHarmony apparently is anti-anything but a man and woman relationship. But it was just interesting that the ones that ask the least amount of questions seem to provide better dates than the ones that ask enormous amounts of questions.

  • 13:39:30

    NNAMDICare to comment on that, Dan Slater?

  • 13:39:32

    SLATERWell, yeah, you know, I think that that's the reason that a lot of these sites are going from the kind of old school algorithms to the -- you know, the behavioral matching. So what we were talking about earlier, this idea that we're not going to ask people what they want or who they are because they don't know very well and they can't really assess themselves. So let's just watch them behave on the site. We'll ask them a few things and that'll be a more effective way of matching them up.

  • 13:39:57

    NNAMDIAnd Theresa, thank you very much for your call. One site, since she mentioned eHarmony, one site that we're suddenly seeing lots of ads for, Dan, is Christian Mingle. Can you explain for us how a void opened up for that company to fill and who's behind it?

  • 13:40:15

    SLATERWell, it's actually the same people that own JDate. So the name of the company is Spark Networks. So they own the -- they own a very big Jewish dating site, and they own a very big Christian dating site, which just goes to show you that when it comes to online dating, the industry is sort of agonistic. They're, you know, more in the for the business. But the way that that sort of market hole opened up, I think, is that eHarmony went through a few years of problems, you know, shortly after its founder left, and its founder has now returned to try to steer the company back to its original focus.

  • 13:40:54

    SLATERBut I think in that period of weakness, the Christian Mingle folks were able to come in and steal a fair amount of market share.

  • 13:41:01

    NNAMDISo he is back at eHarmony?

  • 13:41:04

    SLATERHe came back at 78 years old.

  • 13:41:06

    NNAMDIReady to go head to head with Christian Mingle.

  • 13:41:09

    SLATERExactly. It's going to be a show down in church.

  • 13:41:12

    NNAMDIWell, Christian Mingle's slogan, find God's match for you, is not the first to raise eyebrows. Is there any regulation for the claims that date willing sites can make?

  • 13:41:25

    SLATERI believe there's zero regulation. I think they can, you know, they can say anything. I mean, that's why eHarmony says we can find your soul mate. You know, first of all, what does it mean to find your soul mate? What is a soul mate? But yeah. No. They can say anything they want, and I think that's, you know, the reason that a lot of people approach online dating with very, very high expectations. Because if someone is lonely, if someone's out there lonely, and they're looking for a relationship, it's just human nature that sometimes you're willing to believe a lot of stuff, you're willing to hope.

  • 13:42:01

    SLATERAnd if someone even provides a little bit of hope, sometimes you latch onto an idea, and I think that goes a long way in explaining, you know, how and why the online dating industry is becoming as powerful as it is.

  • 13:42:16

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Dan Slater. He is author of the book "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating." You can still call us, 800-433-8850, or send email to kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:44:20

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about online dating with Dan Slater. He's a journalist and author of "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating." Taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Dan, you note that these sites are in many ways changing what we expect from relationships and commitment across the board. How so?

  • 13:44:45

    SLATERWell, I think that one thing online dating is doing obviously is it's expanding the pool, you know. It doesn't do this for everyone. If you live in a place that's, you know, not very heavily populated, online dating may not do much for you, but for most people it will expand the pool, and I think when it expands the pool, one of the results is that it raises people's perceptions of alternatives. So if you're in a relationship that, you know, is sort of on the fence, is sort of a struggling relationship, I think people who do online dating are now more likely to move on from that than they were in the past because they can.

  • 13:45:22

    NNAMDIOnto Marty in Arlington, Va. Marty, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:45:29

    MARTYHi. Thanks for taking my call. I -- just a heads up. There's an article in today's New York Times in the Science Times about eHarmony and their algorithm, and I guess it says, fails to win over academics. You know, they claim they have this algorithm that guarantees, and I guess some academics said there haven't been any studies, and, you know what are you basing this claim in, et cetera.

  • 13:45:58

    SLATERMm-hmm. Yeah. So this is a claim that's been out now for about a year, the -- I'm not -- I actually didn't see that Times article today, but there were five academics who wrote a paper that was published about this time last year that essentially in about 60, 70, or 80 pages they went through about 80 years of relationship science history and said exactly what you just said, which is that there's no ability for this, or at least there's been no shown.

  • 13:46:25

    NNAMDIMarty, thank you for your call. We move onto Sharon in Washington D.C. Sharon, your turn.

  • 13:46:32

    SHARONHi. I agree with people who don't believe in the algorithms. I just think they're nonsense. And I have friends who have tried online and done very well. My cousins have gotten married, and I resisted for a long time and then I tried it, and I put down specifications of everything I wanted. I'm a pretty conservative person, and I got sent people that had nothing in common with me, that they just seemed like they just wanted to find a breathing man and just send them over. It was horrible, and so I hated it until the very last week when my subscription was about to expire, and I met a wonderful man, and I'm still with him a year and a half later.

  • 13:47:12

    SLATERSo it was a success.

  • 13:47:14

    SHARONBut I think it was all just dumb luck. I think it had nothing to do with anything the service --

  • 13:47:19

    SLATERBut life is also sort of dumb luck though, too, right? I mean, you probably, you know, you wouldn't --

  • 13:47:25

    SHARONBut I --

  • 13:47:26

    SLATERYou'd never have met this guy otherwise, right, if you weren't on an online dating site.

  • 13:47:29

    SHARONThat's what he claims too. But I also don't think that it was anything that Match.com or eHarmony did, and I tried both of them.

  • 13:47:38

    SLATERSure.

  • 13:47:38

    SHARONAnd so I'm still reluctant to recommend that people try it, but I do just to be, you know, honest. But I think that, you know, a lot of women especially have a hard time with it, because you do meet a lot of people who are, you know, dishonest and just looking for fun and not trying to be serious if a woman is looking to be serious.

  • 13:47:59

    NNAMDIIs it fair to say then, Sharon, that there's real life dumb luck and algorithmic dumb luck, Dan Slater?

  • 13:48:07

    SLATERNo. I think that's exactly right. I mean, as I said earlier, I think, you know, the point of online dating is less about eHarmony versus Match or the Christian Mingle site versus a site for people who like to dress up in diapers or whatever. I mean, I think the point is more that we are now connected with each other in a way that we've never been, and that has led to a degree of efficiency in the relationship market that has never before existed.

  • 13:48:37

    NNAMDIWe got an email from Ken in Gaithersburg who says, "I would not hope for more than that a matching site could help narrow down the selection, mainly weeding out people with political beliefs, musical tastes, other interests, location, alcohol use, et cetera, that would not be compatible with mine." In other words it seems as if he's saying it does expand the pool that's available to me, but at the same time, I would expect to narrow that pool so that people that I don't really want would be out of it, but I can't say for sure that the people I really want will be in it.

  • 13:49:11

    SLATERAbsolutely. I mean, I think that that's a reasonable expectation for a dating site is help me narrow the pool. On the other hand, there is a young man who is an online dating user who appears in my book, and he had sort of a different experience. He went on to Match.com and since he had mild asthma, he said I cannot be introduced to any smokers. And so he was on the site for a few weeks and he wasn't meeting any smokers, but then one of the algorithms saw that of the, you know, there were a bunch of men who also tended to like the women that he liked.

  • 13:49:53

    SLATERBut those men also liked this other woman over here to happened to be, you know, an occasional smoker. And so the algorithm said well, let's introduce these two. Even though she's a smoker, they have a lot of other things in common. And now they're with each other, they're about to get married, they live together down in Las Vegas, and I've spoken with them several times and they seem to be very happy. So that was an example of Match sort of helping him narrow the pool, but then sort of helping him, you know, expand the pool a bit as well in a way that he didn't expect.

  • 13:50:25

    NNAMDIInteresting story. Here is Amanda in Arlington, Va. Amanda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:50:32

    AMANDAThank you for taking my call. I think, you know, everything we do online is so curated. You know, we can pick the best pictures to put up whether it's on Facebook or anything or we could edit what we say, and we could always present the best of ourselves, I guess. And I think that there's a little bit of a danger in that, and I'm kind of calling on behalf of my friend who just got burned. He was on -- he had to go into a meeting, so he couldn't remain on hold.

  • 13:50:58

    AMANDASo he was on Grindr and he met a guy and they really hit off, and then it turned out this guy was using kind of Grindr to find matches from whom he would then steal their credit card information. So, I mean, I know that there are bad people out there online and offline, but I think it is a cautionary tale when you only see the best of someone and you meet someone kind of completely out of context. You don't know who their friends are, you know, you just don't have, you know, you can really -- and also my mom -- I had to help her fill out her eHarmony. Oh, my God, that was three hours of torture helping her fill out her application.

  • 13:51:38

    AMANDAAnd then she met some really pervy old men, and this is my 70-year-old mom. So I just think that you have to watch out, and I know you have to watch out everyone, but -- and I don't want to be a Billy Buzz Buster, but, I mean --

  • 13:51:48

    NNAMDIWell, I can ask Dan Slater on your and other people's behalf, Amanda, is there a seedy underbelly to some of these ventures, things people should be wary of when they're setting up dates on even the more reputable sites, Dan Slater?

  • 13:52:02

    AMANDAYeah. Yeah. My mom was on eHarmony, so that's pretty bad.

  • 13:52:05

    NNAMDIYeah.

  • 13:52:05

    SLATERYeah. So, you know, the phenomenon of this scammer, this is a big deal in the online dating world, and a lot of sites spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to keep these scammers off of their sites. And there's certain things you can look for. I think on a site like Grindr, which isn't really a dating site, it's more of an app, and it's a mobile app, and it facilitates this meeting on the fly which is a bit different, and it might be a bit more high risk as well, because you're spending less time with any communication, and you're usually meeting somebody right away with maybe just a message sent, and you're probably not seeing that much information about them either.

  • 13:52:41

    SLATEROn more of traditional dating site, there are various ways to spot a scammer, and oftentimes the person might be from a different country, so look at the syntax. Look at the way they write in the messages. Does it sound like someone who has English as a second language? Oftentimes the photos they post will look like stock photos that they got right off the Internet. Oftentimes they will pose as a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, and the government's not willing to fly them back or, you know, pay for their hospitalization and they need money or they need a laptop sent immediately.

  • 13:53:16

    SLATERThese are the kinds of things that happen. And there is a fair amount of money that's spent by, you know, victims every year. It's millions and millions and millions of dollars.

  • 13:53:24

    NNAMDIAmanda, thank you very much for your call. Here now is Lauren in Silver Spring, Md. Lauren, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:53:31

    LAURENHi, thanks for my call. This is a really interesting show. I think a lot of the people who have called in have found someone online. I am still searching, and I've been on a lot of different sites, and I'm in my early 40s now. And I was hoping that your guest could comment on lying on these sites. You know, perhaps it's a function of the age bracket that I'm in, but I've noticed a lot of people, for example, with their age, you know, it might say, this is John, he's 42, and then you read the profile, and it will say at the bottom, oh, by the way, I'm 49.

  • 13:53:51

    SLATERRight.

  • 13:54:03

    LAURENAnd I've heard, you know, other people say, you know, all men lie about their height, all the women lie about their weight. And I'm just wondering...

  • 13:54:09

    SLATERYeah.

  • 13:54:10

    LAUREN...how common is this, and to what degree does it affect the success rates on these sites? Because I know for me, if somebody's lied in the profile, that's a deal breaker, because I feel like if you're lying before we've even met...

  • 13:54:21

    SLATERRight.

  • 13:54:22

    LAUREN... you know, what next?

  • 13:54:23

    NNAMDIWell, there's lying and there's creative exaggeration. But go ahead, please, Dan.

  • 13:54:27

    SLATERWell, you know, so, you know, the common things, age, weight, and height. I think with age, just on an anecdotal level, what I've heard is that oftentimes people will do exactly what you said, where they will lower the age at the top of their profile so that they can fit into someone's search who's looking for say, say a woman between 30 and 39. For whatever reason mentally they've cut off people at 40 or over, whatever. So someone may say, you know, in the profile that I'm 39 or 38, but then at the bottom of the written profile they say actually -- I mean, I think, as you say, if someone's lying that is a -- that might be somewhat of a red flag.

  • 13:55:11

    SLATERAs far as the rate of lying that takes place in online dating overall, there was a study that was done a few years ago, and the results were somewhat surprising because they found that even though the perception of lying was very high in online dating, the actual amount of lying was actually low. So that, you know, yes, men would tend to add a couple of inches to their height, and women would tend to shave five or ten pounds off their weight, and yes, maybe the photos you post are three or five or ten years old. But the actual rate of that happening was fairly low.

  • 13:55:46

    SLATERAnd I, you know, I think it has something to do with, you know, the way that online dating has sort of messed with the way that we meet, so that you're first shown all this information about someone, and from that information you invent in your head a vision of what you think that person is. And when you actually show up for the date, or you show up to meet them, you're sort of immediately taking stock and seeing if the actual person matches the invention in your head, and even small divergences from that can sort of create an anxiety and make people very upset.

  • 13:56:22

    NNAMDILauren, thank you very much for your call. We have time for Wendy in Alexandria, Va. Hi Wendy.

  • 13:56:28

    WENDYOh, Kojo, hello. I love, love, love you.

  • 13:56:33

    NNAMDIAnd we didn't meet online either. But go ahead, please.

  • 13:56:37

    WENDYSo I've did plenty -- just to let you know, I am married. I did meet my husband because of online dating, but it diverges a little. And I've also had other online dating experience. But, I was using the online dating because I was living in Miami, my husband was also living in Miami, and we didn't know each other, even though it turned out we were just a few streets down from each other. But we were both doing online dating with -- that we found in the back of the alternative newspaper down there.

  • 13:57:11

    WENDYBoth of us found that the average person going out on a Friday night on South Beach was not really who we were looking to meet and settle down with. So we saw each other on there, and we almost had a date and it got kind of -- it didn't happen, and then a couple months later I was walking down the street with my dog, there's my now-husband, and I notice him walking towards me, and I remembered his picture. And I said, oh, aren't you, you know, that guy? And he's like, yeah. We started talking, we fell in love, we have a seven year old now. We're very happy.

  • 13:57:50

    NNAMDIThat guy turned out to be the guy. Wendy, thank you so much for your call. We're just about out of time. Dan Slater, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:59

    SLATERThank you so much for having me.

  • 13:58:00

    NNAMDIDan Slater is a journalist and author of the book "Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating." The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier, Elizabeth Weinstein, with help from Stephannie Stokes. Our engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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