OkCupid Is Pretending People Are Great Matches With Their New Experiment

We're all just guinea pigs in the great social media experiment of life.

Dating website OkCupid has been experimenting on their users just like Facebook, except they are messing with people's love lives like actual bow-wielding cherubs.

In a post Monday on their long-dormant OkTrends blog called "We Experimented on Human Beings!," OkCupid co-founder and data scientist Christian Rudder admits that the site has been performing studies on users without their knowledge.

"But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That's how websites work," Rudder wrote.

He also argued to BuzzFeed writer Charlie Warzel that he's "not playing God."

So what exactly were these experiments?

One study, called "Love Is Blind, Or Should Be," found that people are predictably shallow cretins who base love on looks.

The study found that users had better conversations with potential dates who had their pictures hidden, with people responding to first messages 44% more often, and contact details exchanged more quickly.

The pictures were briefly missing for the site's "Love Is Blind Day" celebration for their new app, but once the photos were restored the two users would usually stop talking to each other.

"Basically, people are exactly as shallow as their technology allows them to be," Rudder wrote.

Another study, "The Power of Suggestion," had Rudder admitting that their algorithm is kind of pointless.

For the experiment, OkCupid led people to believe they had a high match rating (90% compatibility) with people who were actually a terrible match for them (30% compatibility).

So what happened?

Users sent more first messages when they were told they were compatible.

"When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are," they wrote. "Even when they should be wrong for each other."

But the site's algorithm isn't a total waste — they also tested to see whether telling people they are a bad match when they were a good one would affect them.

As Rudder wrote, "The ideal situation is the lower right: to both be told you're a good match, and at the same time actually be one."



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.