Online Dating: People are Racist on OkCupid, Classist on Tinder

Online dating seems to bring out the worst in people.

Does online dating bring out the worst in people? Seems so, based on data and experiments on online dating platforms.

In a video from The Atlantic embedded above, Christian Rudder, co-founder of the dating site OkCupid, gives us some interesting insights from the platform’s data. He found that black users of the site get 25 percent less replies, messages and level of ratings from users of all other races.

Rudder said he was most surprised at how stereotypical the site’s users are. “People are vain and predictable and kinda stupid and kinda racist, but also nice and smart… just very complex,” he said.

Racism isn’t the only bias affecting people’s judgments on dating platforms. BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen rebuilt Tinder, and found that her survey participants were more likely to reject others based on class rather than race.

While her unscientific experiment was based on a small sample, she found that “if a user self-identified as upper-middle-class and identified the male profile before him or her as ‘working-class,’ that user swiped ‘yes’ only 13 percent of the time; if they identified themselves as lower-middle-class, the swipe rate rose only slightly to 17 percent.”

In Petersen’s experiment, where she built a simulation of the app, profiles that had stereotypical working-class markers — tattoos, piercings, a bad dye job, a truck in the background — had much lower swipe rates. She writes:

The raw idea of attraction — that knee-jerk “thinking from the genitals” decision — has less to do with our unmentionable parts and much more to do with a combination of our deepest subconscious biases and with our most overt and uncharitable personal politics. And if that’s the case, it’s no doubt the reason why Tinder is so popular, addictive and ultimately insidious.