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Online Dating and Matching Markets

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Generations ago, finding that special person who you’ll spend the rest of your life with tended to be extremely difficult.  There was no texting, no e-mail, no Facebook, no internet.  However, nowadays, individuals turn to finding a significant other via the digital internet.  There’s a plethora of dating services available at our fingertips – eHarmony,, JDate, Tinder, Meetup, and more – that make communication and finding the perfect partner much easier.

Who knew that there is a science behind these matchmaker websites?  In Networks, we’ve studied matching markets, where individuals represent nodes, and edges connecting them correspond to a matching.  In this article, the author describes how online dating websites essentially work as matching markets.  We can look at a bipartite graph consisting of two sets of nodes:  set x includes one of the two partners looking for a date, and set y contains the other partner.  A matching is a subset of edges, occurring when two individuals share similar interests, and when both partners agree to meet.  When you sign up for the site, you put in your information (hobbies, location, age), and the app does the rest of the work for you.  It matches you up with potential partners who share the same interests, showing how preferences in the matching market depend on how much the two people have in common.  Person A might value person B highly if the two individuals both enjoy playing chess, eating Chinese food, and live in New York City.  The digital dating sites strive to make many successful matchings; in order for one to occur, both partners must mutually like each other, meaning the desire to date must be reciprocal.

Regarding market size, there are many pros and cons of having a lot of individuals join a certain dating app.  A dense market with many participants is definitely advantageous because it becomes more likely that someone is out there with similar hobbies and appeals as you.  However, a dense, concentrated market can also be seen as a negative.  It becomes troublesome if there are way too many people (or nodes) because, as discussed in class, a “constricted set” can occur if there are really selective, close-minded people involved.  For instance, three women may only desire the same two men, so it is clear that one woman may end up unsatisfied, without a date.  Constricted sets, therefore, make a perfect matching, where every node is connected to exactly one node on the other side of the bipartite graph, impossible to achieve.  All in all, there are so many benefits to meeting a significant other through these digital dating sites rather than meeting them in person because the matchmaking technologies do their job.  Just like a matching market, they match someone with another individual who has corresponding interests, virtually promising a romantic spark between the two.  There could be someone out there who’s “the one,” yet you would never have come into contact with him/her if it weren’t for this technologically-advanced matching market.


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October 2016