CatholicMatchers, did you catch The New Yorker’s in-depth feature on online dating?
Nick Paumgarten begins the piece by describing the first online dating system, launched in 1965 by an accountant and a computer programmer:
A year later, Altfest and Ross had a prototype, which they called Project TACT, an acronym for Technical Automated Compatibility Testing—New York City’s first computer-dating service.
Each client paid $5 and answered more than a hundred multiple-choice questions. One section asked subjects to choose from a list of “dislikes”: “1. Affected people. 2. Birth control. 3. Foreigners. 4. Free love. 5. Homosexuals. 6. Interracial marriage,” and so on. Another question, in a section called “Philosophy of Life Values,” read, “Had I the ability I would most like to do the work of (choose two): (1) Schweitzer. (2) Einstein. (3) Picasso.”
Some of the questions were gender-specific. Men were asked to rank drawings of women’s hair styles: a back-combed updo, a Patty Duke bob. Women were asked to look at a trio of sketches of men in various settings, and to say where they’d prefer to find their ideal man: in camp chopping wood, in a studio painting a canvas, or in a garage working a pillar drill. TACT transferred the answers onto a computer punch card and fed the card into an I.B.M. 1400 Series computer, which then spit out your matches: five blue cards, if you were a woman, or five pink ones, if you were a man.
Interesting that the very first online dating survey asked about birth control, which remains one of CatholicMatch’s seven faith questions.
Paumgarten covers a lot of ground in the piece, including age disparities and double standards. He notes:
A common observation, about both the Internet dating world and the world at large, is that there is an apparent surplus of available women, especially in their thirties and beyond, and a shortage of recommendable men. The explanation for this asymmetry, which isn’t exactly news, is that men can and usually do pursue younger women, and that often the men who are single are exactly the ones who prefer them. For women surveying a landscape of banished husbands or perpetual boys, the biological rationale offers little solace. Neither does the Internet.
Paumgarten also pokes fun at cliched profiles.
It is an axiom of Internet dating that everyone allegedly has a sense of humor, even if evidence of it is infrequently on display. You don’t have to prove that you love to curl up with the Sunday Times or take walks on the beach (a very crowded beach, to judge by daters’ profiles), but, if you say you are funny, then you should probably show it. Demonstrating funniness can be fraught. Irony isn’t for everyone. But everyone isn’t for everyone, either.
What do you think of the article? Which observations rang the most true? Which points did Paumgarten fail to make?