One-in-ten Americans will take to the internet at some point in their search for a mate, and as many as one-third of single people, but how do you snag the right one?
To find out, researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed nearly 200,000 men and women online daters in four major US cities to see how they behave online, and what strategic tools they employ when seeking a potential mate. All participants were heterosexual.
Competition for a mate creates a sort of “hierarchy of desirability,” which researchers used to rate profiles – the more messages a person receives, the more desirable they are. Bonus points if you’re contacted by others who are themselves desirable. Rather than relying on just guessing what people might find attractive, the researchers say this strategy allows them to see who is receiving the most attention and from whom.
Publishing their work in Science Advances, they found on average both men and women go after potential suitors deemed 25 percent more desirable than themselves – and use different messaging strategies for people of different attractiveness.
However, "Women have much higher reply rates to their first messages than men," Dr Elizabeth Bruch, co-author of the study, told The Guardian. "Men’s average reply rate is around 17 percent, whereas for women often more than half of their messages can get a response. So women can afford to be more aspirational than they are.”
Additionally, certain strategic behaviors can improve a person’s chance of finding a desirable partner.
The commonly-referenced matching hypothesis finds that people seek a mate who is similar to them in terms of age, education, attractiveness, attitudes, and other characteristics. Generally speaking, in this study older men tended to be more desirable than young, while women peak at 18 and get less attractive with age. To make matters more frustrating for our lady friends, women were most attractive with an undergraduate degree, but more education, like graduate degrees, were linked to less desirability. It makes a certain amount of sense considering a majority of online daters are on the prowl for people who are thought to be more desirable.
To snag that perfectly out-of-your-league fish in the online dating sea send short, simple texts. The researchers found people change the length and number of messages they send to people at different attractiveness levels. People send longer messages to those were are higher up on the hierarchy. Fake it until you make it: Sending dating prospects shorter messages will make you seem like you are higher up on the dating chain.
It works, too. As much as 21 percent of people who send shorter messages get a response from a person out of their league.
In short: Keep it short, and date someone totally out of your league.