The best matching markets are those that are “thick”, with lots of participants.The more people there are seeking digital dates, the greater the chance of finding a good match.Odds improve that another person in the crowd also enjoys Wagner, Thai food, or discussions about the economics of matching markets.The wealth of information many dating sites request may help to home in on the perfect match, but if the effort involved is enough to deter potential mates from joining in the first place, then it does more harm than good.When Tinder first launched, largely to facilitate casual sex, users assessed one another based only on looks, age and gender.
Simplicity worked wonders; there are 26m matches made between Tinder users each day.The advantages of thick markets are lost, however, if they become too “congested”, with users overwhelmed by the number of participants and unable to locate a good match among them.One response is to specialise.JSwipe, for instance, caters to Jewish singles while Bumble, an app where women must initiate contact, is meant to attract feminists.But the most popular apps seek to help their users filter possible mates using clever technology.Tinder, for example, only provides users with profiles of fellow Tinderites who are nearby, to make it that much easier to meet in person.It has also introduced a “super like” feature, which can be deployed only once a day, to allow smitten users to signal heightened interest in someone.
In addition, last year it started allowing people to list their jobs and education, to help users to sort through the crowds.Users get the benefits both of a big pool of potential partners and various tools to winnow them.The emergence of matching apps, for those seeking love or theatre tickets or a lift, has certainly made once-onerous tasks more convenient.They may also contribute to more profound economic change.Dating apps could strengthen the trend toward “assortative mating”, whereby people choose to couple with those of similar income and skills.By one estimate, the trend accounts for about 18% of the rise in income inequality in America between 1960 and 2005.
A recent study of online dating in South Korea found that it boosted sorting among couples by education.Better matching may also mean bigger cities.Metropolitan goliaths have long been melting-pots, within which those early on in their adult lives link up with jobs, friends and mates.Matching apps, romantic or not, make it easier to navigate the urban sprawl and sample all it has to offer.That, in turn, should make the biggest cities relatively more attractive to young people.Apps cannot yet make break-ups less painful.And love remains mysterious enough that even the most refined algorithms cannot predict mutual attraction with confidence.
But they clearly help, judging by their legions of users.After all, it is better to have super-liked and lost than never to have super-liked at all.