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  • By Joy Santamarina

The unsexy secrets behind online dating

From fake profiles to small exaggerations, there are people who present themselves in more attractive versions than reality. Some surveys done by U.S.-based dating apps estimate that as much as 50 percent lie on their profiles.

Clueless and single since birth? Recently unhitched, separated or divorced? Decidedly single but wiling to mingle? In a complicated relationship and testing new waters? Whatever your relationship status is, are you thinking of downloading that online dating app? Or, you may already be an expert but still haven’t found “the one.”

The quest for significant human connections has always been there from the time human beings learned to carve on caves and tree barks to express themselves to today’s seemingly countless ways to meet new people online and offline. If you’re intrigued and want to know more about online dating apps and how these work, read on.

Big Business

This business is big business. According to DatingNews.Com (yes, there is such a site), there are currently about 8,000 dating apps worldwide. These range from the most popular and considered to be the pioneer like, to more specific and niche ones like Bristlr, a dating site for beard lovers founded in 2014. The range is there for you to choose from. In fact, the concern is that there may be too many and the quality of some may no longer be at par with others.

Big business means big revenues. 2019 estimated revenues total $1.2 billion worldwide with about half coming from the United States ($581 million), and is estimated to have a compounded annual growth rate of 4.3 percent, to reach almost $1.5 billion by 2023. Americans spend about $17 a month. It is no wonder that many apps sprout and want to be part of this.


From fake profiles to small exaggerations, there are people who present themselves in more attractive versions than reality. Some surveys done by U.S.-based dating apps estimate that as much as 50 percent lie on their profiles. About the same number think that they have seen profiles that look like a person is lying. Both genders are guilty of lying but it’s interesting to note that men tend to lie about their income and how successful they really are, while women tend to lie about their ages and use pictures of their younger selves. What is disturbing though is that some articles say that more than 60 percent are already in existing relationships. Specific to the more popular app Tinder, the number is 42 percent (30 percent are married, 12 percent are in a relationship). What the statistics are for “real-life” lying may be the same, higher or lower. The point is, be careful out there if you’re looking for “the one” for the rest may just be looking for “the one night” instead.

To circumvent this seeming trend and render themselves credible, some apps have already instituted additional steps to verify profiles. Perhaps there is hope.

Algorithms and machine learning

Websites such as used scientific-based research on personality types to predict potential matches. Hence, whatever you say on your profile is the one used to find you your potential matches. These days though, if you think that you are being totally honest on your dating preferences when you fill up your profile, think again. With the advent of algorithms and machine learning techniques that some sites already employ, you can be caught in your own lies and will be presented with what you really prefer. Simplistically, algorithms are mathematical rules or set of rules to solve particular problems with large sets of data. Machine learning means it can structure layers of algorithms on its own, create new ones without being explicitly programmed and make informed decisions progressively.

As an example, if you say on your profile that you don’t really have any facial preferences but you swipe/like/look longer at people with dimples or brown eyes, then you will eventually be presented with more of the same. Not only that, it can infer that perhaps you also like people who are bankers, based on behaviors from other people who also like dimples or brown eyes. And it goes on and on, the longer you use the app, the more it will learn your behaviors and preferences.

A dystopian future

In essence, technology removes the sexiness of the dating game. Or perhaps, if you look at it positively, removes the guess work and presents you with the most logical potential partners. With augmented reality, wearable devices, and internet of things, it is just a matter of time before results can be tracked and daters can be rated real-time, which can then rank and tag people in terms of their attractiveness and as ideal or non-ideal as a match. A very “Black Mirror” future awaits the dating game, don’t you think?


Joy Santamarina is a consulting principal in the APAC region specializing in the telecommunications, media, and technology industry. Send feedback to

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