Little White Lies Of Online Dating Revealed When looking for love online, dating sites know you're not telling the whole truth. Christian Rudder, co-founder of the dating site OkCupid, writes a blog for the site analyzing user data. He says people exaggerate their height and income, and also aren't as open-minded as they claim to be.
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Little White Lies Of Online Dating Revealed

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Little White Lies Of Online Dating Revealed

Little White Lies Of Online Dating Revealed

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We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: That's the band Bishop Allen. The guitarist, Christian Rudder, has a side gig. He's one of the co-founders of the dating site OKCupid.

Now, unlike most online dating sites, OKCupid matches its three and a half million users based on their answers to various quizzes. Chris and Jeanie Wilson(ph) were matched on the site in 2005 and married three years later. Their quizzes showed they were 96 percent compatible, but they both admit it was not love at first click.

Mr. CHRIS WILSON: Your profile was...

Ms. JEANIE WILSON: It was pretentious. I'll give you that.

Mr. WILSON: And I could tell that...

Ms. WILSON: I wanted to be cool really badly?

Mr. WILSON: Yeah. I could tell that you wanted to portray yourself as like a cool, detached, coffee shop, like, beatnik.

CORNISH: So remember that guy Christian Rudder, the guitarist who helped found OKCupid? He's also a math guy, and he takes profiles of users like the Wilsons and sifts, sorts and analyzes them for the site's blog, OKTrends.

Mr. CHRISTIAN RUDDER (Co-founder, OKCupid): We would take more interesting findings and polish them up for people to read, and that's how the blog started.

CORNISH: Even though the postings don't always paint you guys or the site or the people using OKCupid in a very good light.

Mr. RUDDER: Yeah.

CORNISH: For instance, you guys did this great blog posting about the most common interests among certain races or genders, and you created these word clouds, which is collection of words that appeared over and over again in the profiles of your members, right?

Mr. RUDDER: Yeah.

CORNISH: You got this information from data they inputted into the site.

Mr. RUDDER: Yeah, yeah.

CORNISH: And I want to zoom in on the one for white men and what they said their top interests were. We actually had a few gentlemen from our office read them.

Unidentified Man #1: Tom Clancy.

Unidentified Man #2: Van Halen.

Unidentified Man #3: Golfing.

Unidentified Man #4: Harley Davison.

Unidentified Man #5: "Ghostbusters."

Unidentified Man #6: Phish.

Unidentified Man #7: Jeep.

Unidentified Man #8: Grilling.

Unidentified Man #9: Megadeth.

Unidentified Man #10: CCR.

Unidentified Man #11: NASCAR.


(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: I allowed to say that that's stereotypical?

Mr. RUDDER: Yeah. You would - not only allowed, you would be most correct if you said that. It was really interesting the way the whole thing kind of developed, because we originally set out with like the idea that we were just going to put the words that people said the most.

And when we ran the numbers the first time, all the races were basically very similar. So we had to kind of rethink what a stereotype actually was. It's not just something that's popular, it's something that's uniquely popular to whatever group you're trying to stereotype.

CORNISH: I have to say that some of the conclusions, say for this particular post, actually made me feel a little bit uncomfortable, right? This is about stereotypes, and I'm going down the list, and I see, OKCupid black women like soul food and Tupac.

And, you know, some of this information is I mean, it's about stereotypes, and it doesn't disprove it. So what's your point, you know, in pursuing this?

Mr. RUDDER: That's true. Well, that post in particular, I think, was there just as entertainment. And it was a little bit expected that it would be so stereotypical. But I think the level of stereotypicalness was paradoxically surprising.

So what we accomplished, I'm not totally sure, but I think people really enjoyed reading that stuff.

CORNISH: Talk a little bit about some of the more difficult posts. I remember you guys did one about race, in particular what kind of responses people get versus what kind of replies they might put out.

Mr. RUDDER: We found some kind of depressing things...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RUDDER: ...foremost that black people get the worst response rate across the board, not just from white people, but from everyone. Yet, black people give the most responses per message sent to them. So it's a weird imbalance.

And honestly, the one most surprising thing I found in digging through all this data, race is just such a huge influence on people's interactions.

CORNISH: What are the not-so-obvious things people embellish? And what ways do they sell themselves short?

Mr. RUDDER: Sell themselves short is a funny turn of phrase considering that people on average add about two inches to their height. Another thing is part of the same post. We looked at income and found that people statistically add about $20,000 to their yearly income when they're kind of putting it out there.

CORNISH: Wow. So it's true with - I mean, we are all taller and better looking online.

Mr. RUDDER: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: Now, I have to ask: Why would you guys do this? Because if you learned all this information about people, you could match them up better, right, and make the site even more successful.

Mr. RUDDER: Yeah.

CORNISH: Or maybe you don't want us to get matched up so that we keep using the site.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RUDDER: Keep everyone sad and single forever?


Mr. RUDDER: Yeah. Interesting (unintelligible).

CORNISH: And so - like we mentioned earlier, some of the information is just downright depressing. So, you know, why would you do this?

Mr. RUDDER: You mean call our users racists and liars?

CORNISH: Well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RUDDER: As a business plan? We just thought it was really interesting. And like, we just felt like people would appreciate the honesty from us. Like, the numbers were there, and we just decided to do it. And there's been a lot of debate, and we probably did lose some people. But I think we've gained many more.

CORNISH: And how has this changed the way you look at the whole idea of matchmaking? I mean, you guys are doing this love by algorithm. But what has this, I guess, taught you about how that world works?

Mr. RUDDER: I'm amazed at how picky people are, not just about race but about, like, all other kinds of deal-breakers. And I'm amazed at how much people misrepresent themselves.

But also, I'm amazed that so many people are like bold enough to put themselves out there and meet basically total strangers online and then eventually in person. It's like dismaying on the one hand, but it's like also been pretty encouraging and heartening on the other.

CORNISH: That's Christian Rudder, the OKTrends blogger for the dating site OKCupid. He's a co-founder of the company and also plays guitar in the band Bishop Allen.

Christian, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. RUDDER: Oh, it was my pleasure, Audie. Thank you for having me.

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