Online dating isn’t easy, and now we have the data to prove it.
A new study, published in the journal Science Advances Wednesday — which analyzed data from a pool of tens of thousands of online dating profiles in New York, Boston, Seattle, and Chicago — found that people consistently message potential mates who are out of their league.
What a shock.
Study authors Elizabeth Bruch and Mark Newman pulled information from profiles and plugged it into an algorithm which took into account age, education, gender, and race/ethnicity in relation to the number of messages received among heterosexual individuals.
From there, the scientists sorted out exactly what kind of person received the most messages and from whom during January 2014, the busiest month for online dating sites.
Because of this plethora of data from tens of thousands of profiles, the researchers were able to figure out what kind of person received the most message.
And from there, a hierarchy emerged.
“There’s an almost inevitable hierarchy in any system where you have directive messages. Some people, called a source, send more messages, and others receive more messages. Those who send more are at the bottom, and those who receive more are at the top,” internet sociologist Bernie Hogan, who is not affiliated with the study, said in an interview.
“Most people are somewhere in the middle but if you arrange them in a line, there is a hierarchy. It’s not a class system or a caste system, it’s just a hierarchy.”
For example, the study found that higher education is always more “desirable” in men, while an education beyond an undergraduate degree decreases a woman’s desirability.
Age is also a factor. While age seems to be less important in relation to a man’s desirability, a woman is considered less desirable immediately as she ages past 18.
These conclusions, of course, align with some well-known tropes in dating at large.
“The age patterns were pretty shocking,” Bruch said. “I think everybody knows that younger women are more desirable, but it just struck me as extremely stark.”
But Hogan wasn’t so surprised.
If the data is coming from the United States, it should reinforce what individuals in the United States believe, he explained.
And when it comes to age, since “MILF” is one of the highest searched words on PornHub, clearly the data doesn’t fully express the market.
A few other disturbing trends were also revealed in the data. were also considered the least desirable in all four cities. Also, Seattle is the least hospitable dating climate for men, with two men to every one female.
The fact that the scientists were even able to study this kind of dating at all represents something new for this kind of work.
Since dating in real life is often unpredictable, it has always been difficult for researchers to analyze the behaviors of daters in any quantifiable way.
Therefore, access to data from a popular, undisclosed online dating service has done a good job setting up the way we look at dating hierarchies, not just in the United States, but everywhere.
However, these results aren’t meant to be steer certain individuals away from online dating.
“There certainly submarkets in every online dating pool where an older woman would be successful,” Bruch said, and the same would hold true for any other group deemed less desirable by the hierarchy of the online dating world.