Then she starts to score the men with whom she interacts on the site, giving them points based on how many of those 72 attributes they possess. As a journalist turned management consultant, she writes that “data was what I knew. It wasn’t emotional.”
Spoiler alert: Adhering to her self-tailored algorithm, Webb meets her future husband.
The story of her journey certainly sells well in a big-data, Nate Silver world. But I’m not sure she needed to “hack the haystack,” as she puts it, to find her soul mate. A little self-awareness, and some editing help from a trusted friend or two, might have helped her mold that “future thinker” into a more desirable dater without spending a month stalking the competition.
Additionally, her belief that women should barely mention their jobs in their profiles — it isn’t LinkedIn, after all — will be tough for Washingtonians to swallow. Still, Webb’s willingness to expose how she transformed from clueless to keyed-in shows just how manufactured and unnatural it can feel to look for a mate the way we shop for shoes or electronics.
Competition has always been part of the mating game, says Glenn Geher, a psychology professor and co-author of “Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love.” But in online dating, “the bar is much higher,” he says, than when first impressions are forged in real life.
“Deception detection” is heightened, Geher says, when people meet online. Everyone is putting forth a polished, aspirational version of themselves, pushing daters to think: “I have to dig deep to find out what this person is really like.”
In that context, Webb’s instincts, while a little creepy, make perfect sense.
Lisa Bonos is Outlook’s assistant editor.
Read more from Outlook:
Let’s fall in love like the ancients
Call me, maybe: The art of the digital breakup
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