7 things we learned about online dating from the co-founder of OKCupid

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Online-datingFew people know more about online dating that Christian Rudder, co-founder and editorial director of OKCupid. Privy to the vast mountains of data created as millions of people answer questions about what they’re looking for in love, search through profiles of people in their area and flirtatiously message each other, Rudder has learned a lot from the numbers. This week, Rudder gave us insight into OKCupid’s dating algorithm in a TED-Ed lesson and came to our New York office to speak as part of our miniature TED about love, sex and family. To help you get in the Valentine’s Day spirit, here are some surprising facts we learned from Rudder about online dating behavior.

  1. Women are more likely to get responses than guys. For a guy who writes a woman on OKCupid without any previous flirtation, he has a 25% chance of getting a reply from her. But for women who are cold-writing a guy — there’s a 40% chance she will get a reply.
  2. Women’s perception of men’s attractiveness may be more warped than men’s perception of women’s appearance. With the rise of pornography, plastic surgery and airbrushing, many people wonder — do guys know what real women look like anymore? The answer appears to be yes. When Rudder showed us a graph of the ratings men give to women on an attractiveness scale of 1 to 5 through OKCupid, there’s a normal distribution with fewer women falling at the 1 and 5 extremes and the grand majority getting ratings in the middle. However, when women rate men on a scale of 1 to 5 on attractiveness through the site, the graph skews sharply towards the lower end. Women overall rate many men as a 1, and shockingly few as a 4 or 5. Jokes Rudder, “A 3.8 for a guy is basically Hollywood material.”
  3. Still, men tend to email the most attractive women. While guys can clearly appreciate women in the center of the attractiveness spectrum,  that doesn’t mean they don’t aim for the top. Men of all levels of attractiveness tend to send the most emails to the few women rated across the board as a 5.
  4. Message length doesn’t appear to matter. Rudder was sure that longer messages would up a person’s chances of getting a response from the object of their affection. But it’s not true. Whether a message is the length of a tweet or the length of a novella doesn’t seem to matter in terms of chances for a reply. The numbers listed in item #1 hold tight — men have a 25% chance of getting a response and women have a 40% chance.
  5. If you don’t hear back quickly, you probably won’t. Rudder took a look at the length of time elapsed before a person replies to a message and how it corresponds to the likelihood that they will respond. In a fascinating twist, half of all replies are sent by the seven-hour mark. There’s a big drop-off from there in the chances of a reply. “Seven hours is the half-life of your hopes and dreams,” joked Rudder.
  6. Not all replies turn into dates. Getting a reply on OKCupid is half the battle — but it isn’t everything. There’s only about a 30% chance that a reply will turn into an actual conversation — a correspondence that lasts for three exchanges or longer.
  7. Despite the startling statistics, people do fall in love through the site. Every day, about 500 people disable their OKCupid profiles for a very specific reason: they met someone through the site that they’re embarking on a relationship with.

What have your online dating experiences been like? Which of these facts surprises you the most?

Comments (13)

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  • commented on Dec 15 2013

    Here is my 10 do’s for online dating

    1. BE HONEST

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  • LaBelle Bretonne commented on Oct 10 2013

    “Women’s perception of men’s attractiveness may be more warped than men’s perception of women’s appearance”

    Sorry, but straight men do not take care of themselves anywhere near as much as they need to. I am gobsmacked at the few good looking, well-maintained, well put together men out there, especially as they age.

    It’s not that women’s views are distorted. The men really are 1s and 2s unfortunately :-(

  • commented on Sep 23 2013

    The practice of searching for a romantic or sexual partner on the Internet, typically via a dedicated website is like a way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. So the best thing to do is knowing the person well and looking for any chemistry that will brought out with in you both well for as i read the book of Haley Hill i learned so much thing about dating and into relationships.

  • Nigel clark commented on Jul 8 2013

    I know what you are talking about on the travel side of things, but there are several good travel dating sites or sites with a travel option included.

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  • Manuela Pineda commented on May 16 2013

    Wow! That’s cool Nino, I like the concept of meeting travel mates… There’s also a new network that tries to connect people from all over the world who want to have a baby; actually, is an Online Dating site mixed with a ‘social media concept’ and focused (BUT NOT LIMITED!) to those looking to start a family or help in becoming parents (Surrogacy, Adoption, IVF..) or just interesting guys and girls to hang out!… I found it really cool!

  • Nino Moharam commented on Apr 24 2013

    I’ve been looking for a really good online dating site for some time, but they are not that good with many fake people, and I found, it’s actually more of a social network thing for people who would like to meet travel mates from different countries. The good thing about it is that it’s totally secure because they have the feature of video chatting with these girls so you’ll not share your personal contacts unless you’re 100% sure , One thing that I really liked was the tips on how to avoid scam and fraud.

  • Allan Browning commented on Apr 23 2013

    What Your Profile Picture Says About You…
    Let’s face it, attraction is important. The reason you put up a picture in the first place is to “attract” someone to your profile. Those daters that don’t post a picture are sending out some very counter-productive vibes. No picture usually means the person can’t work a camera, or worse, they have something to hide. Craig’s List is swamped with posters posting messages without a picture, because they know they’re hiding something. Don’t do that on a real dating site. Especially one you’re paying for. More often than not, not having a profile picture can also signify you’re already in a relationship and/or married, looking for something on the side. I’ve, unfortunately, met my fair share of women who claim they’re “divorced” but actually only “separated” and they still live in the same house as their “ex”.

    My biggest beef with people’s profiles is that they upload their four or five “favorite” pictures from a decade ago. Relationships are based on a foundation of trust. If you show up on that initial “meet and greet” looking nothing like your profile pictures, that trust is gone before it can even begin. It’s common knowledge that people fudge a little here and a little there…women usually subtract 5 years from their age while men routinely add 3 inches to their height. But once you finally meet the person you’ve been emailing and texting and chatting with on the phone, and they look nothing like their pictures, you feel cheated and bamboozled. Not a great start.

    Most of us would rather see what you look like running an errand today rather than what you looked like that night you dressed up with friends and snapped a picture at that perfect angle five years ago. That’s not being shallow; that’s being a realist.


    The GURU of Online Dating

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