I called Lewis from the third-floor Somerville, Massachusetts apartment that used to belong to my ex-girlfriend and me, a young woman I met on Ok Cupid. Looking back on our two-year relationship from that dreary place—I would move out in less than a month’s time—I felt eaten alive by pain and regret.
Never having met each other, I thought, would have been preferable to what actually happened. K, in fact, was just one in a series of several attempts to salve the heart wound that resulted from the -so-serendipitous union with my 99 percent match.
Speaking with Lewis that gray October morning was, at least, somewhat comforting in its bleakness.
“The thing that’s so interesting—and, from a research perspective, useful—about Ok Cupid is that their algorithm is transparent and user-driven, rather than the black-box approach employed by or e Harmony,” he said.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised: We met through Ok Cupid—85 percent match, 23 percent enemy (which sums to 108 percent, seems to me).
Although many users, especially younger users, prefer swipe-based dating apps like Tinder—or its female-founded alter ego, Bumble (on which only women can write first messages)—Ok Cupid’s mathematical approach to online dating remains popular.
Assuming both you and your would-be sweetheart have answered enough questions to ensure a reliable read, getting a 99 percent match with someone—the highest possible—might sound like a ringing endorsement (assuming, of course, you both like each other’s looks in the photos as well).
However, according to sociologist Kevin Lewis, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, there’s no evidence that a high match percentage reliably translates into a successful relationship.
Match Group’s only real competitor is e Harmony, a site aimed at older daters, reviled by many for its founder’s homophobic politics.
You then rate the question’s importance on a scale that ranges from “a little” to “somewhat” to “very.” (If you mark all possible answers as acceptable, however, the question’s importance is automatically downgraded to “irrelevant” [cue the Borg]).
Ok Cupid’s algorithm then assigns a numerical weight to each question that corresponds to your importance rating, and compares your answers to those of potential matches in a specified geographic area.
The formula errs on the conservative side, always showing you the lowest possible match percentage you could have with someone.
It also provides an enemy percentage, which is—confusingly—computed without the weighting, meaning it represents a raw percentage of incompatible answers.