Why internet dating makes me angry

Rosie shared with me a post from Girl on the Net, titled The ‘science of dating’ and why it should make you angry

When Rosie shared it on Twitter, I did what I usually do. Add it to Instapaper for a more relaxed time and so I can read it on my Kindle. Days later, I found some time during a lunch break, while eating my soup and started reading. I was unprepared for how much I wanted to scream “YES!”

I’m aware of Girl on the Net, but there’s so much great points in the post I can’t help but say “I knew I wasn’t crazy!”

Here’s a few of the points which had me shouting yes inside!

Relationship advice, on the other hand, screams absolutes no matter how little data the authors have. I recently received an email advertising a site that claimed to give me the “science” behind dating – by “science” it looked like they meant a survey they did of 100 single women. From this tiny sample not only did they draw conclusions like “all women want you to text back within 48 hours” but also that they could tell which of the survey respondents was a “hot babe”.

If only people would see relationship advice as just that… Advice! You can take it or leave it, but its certainly not something you can quote and put money on. The advice is also Anecdotal, which leads on to…

Anecdotal evidence is always popular – whether it’s Peter, who managed to overcome his fears about talking to women after reading The Game, or a few quotes on a forum for pick-up artists assuring us that this magic method helped our hero get laid three nights in a row, honest. The anecdotal evidence of dating advice is rarely challenged in the same way as we’d challenge it elsewhere

Anecdotal at best. But the problem is people treat it like fact. The fact is my advice is as good as their’s. They will never admit it but it is full of holes and bias, just like mine.

This is why, when Northern Lass 32, said in the Guardian… I was the human dating Wikipedia. I quite liked it.

Wikipedia isn’t always correct and is very human with its mistakes, lack of citations and verification. While this is fine for me, not claiming to be a expert. Its not so good for those who claim to be experts and know exactly what you’re doing wrong.

I’ve found things which work for me, but I can only suggest they may work for others. I try and caution the advice I give. But ultimately I could also be seen as adding to the dubious information state. Never meant to, I always felt I was just opening peoples eyes to the possibilities which they never took.

…this onslaught of dubious info will prevent us from doing what’s natural – meeting people and having relationships with them – but it certainly hurls a few obstacles in the way of people who might be struggling. What’s more, it matters because all such misinformation matters: it demonstrates to people that you can package waffle as wisdom and make money from it. It teaches us that anecdotal evidence, vague appeals to authority and ad hominem are perfectly valid ways to win an argument.

I feel the difference here is, I am always welcomed to be challenged and I am by friends and strangers. Like testing a new formula or concept, I welcome push back. Oh and get it from those who say I’m too picky, too data centric and trying to quantify the unquantifiable.

Ultimately there is simply not enough clearly non-bias open data to give sound advice about online dating. Unfortunately in the void of this, the dating company’s get away with making insane statements and the dating experts go unchallenged. And as Girl on the net makes very clear…

…above all it matters because it paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of reality: in which women want nothing more than a free lunch and an open door, and men must jump through hoops and clap their flippers like performing seals in order to secure a gesture of love.

Sobering words for us all to think about…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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