Digital Dating

We All Might Be Better Off If We Went on Blind Dates

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They say expectation breeds disappointment. So why not jettison your perfectly manicured, full-bodied, blue-wearing online dating profile picture for a blank gray avatar? Blind dates might not be so bad after all. They don’t have to be dead.

That’s just one of the big reveals that came out of OkCupid’s recently relaunched OkTrends blog, the cultural phenomenon that in years past has discovered that people who have sex on first dates love the taste of beer and people who use Twitter obsessively don’t stay in relationships for very long. The blog, which had been on a far-too-long three year hiatus, is back in action and quick to confess that it’s been experimenting. With all of us.

Christian Rudder, co-founder of OkCupid and writer of the legendary blog, explains that if you’re on the internet, you’re bound to be the subject of hundreds of experiments. Because, as he puts succinctly, “that’s how websites work.” While Facebook might still be getting heat for giving us a dose of the sads via a news feed experiment, OkCupid’s been tinkering around with your dating profile to try to understand what makes dates actually work.

In order to promote their blind dating app in January 15, 2013, on a day OkCupid likes to call “Love Is Blind Day,” the company removed all pictures from the site. The effect? Mostly everybody stopped using OkCupid (c’mon, people want to know if other people are hot!). But here’s where it gets interesting: of the people who stayed on OkCupid during the 7-hour blackout, they were responding to first messages 44 percent more often, conversations went deeper, and contact details were given out more rapidly. What about the early adopters of the blind dating app? Data showed that they men and women had a good time on their dates, regardless of how good-looking their partner was. So why didn’t looks matter, however briefly, in these two instances? Most likely because the initial, photo-free connection was pretty genuine. Unibrows, funky hairlines, and questionable shirts didn’t matter as much in light of real rapport.

But once OkCupid flipped the switch and the pictures came back, conversations were halted. Phone numbers recoiled from the outstretched virtual hands. “Hey cuties” dwindled. The takeaway: “people are exactly as shallow as their technology allows them to be.”

OkTrends’ other findings include comparing personality vs. looks and the power of suggestion. But I won’t spoil the fun for you.