According to OkCupid, I am blessed with many a 99% match. 168, to be precise – confining my search to single straight men with photos who fall within my age range, have been online in the last month, and live within a 25-mile radius. Yep, that’s right, there are 168 men out there who are supposedly tailor-made for me.
168 men. That’s 15 football teams, with three reserves. That’s two double-decker buses. That’s 18 more than you’d find in the optimal social network. That’s exactly four times the number of men that Miranda from Sex and the City professes to have slept with. That’s one man for every hour of the week, excluding breaks for sleep and food and probable trips to the STI clinic.
Charmed though I am with my abundance of matches, I do find myself wondering what a 99% match really entails. Assuming that a 100% match would be the One True Soulmate Predestined For Me By The Universe, do I take it that a 99% match is like that, only with a flaw? Somebody who is perfect for me in every way, apart from with a single, deadly, deal-breaker?
I can picture them now, my two busloads of men, filing out at hourly intervals for spot checks. Number 8 – now he looks marvellous, but what about that weird stain on his top? Number 72 – he seems great, till I find out what he keeps in his bedside cabinet. As for number 167, well he comes close, but with one more left to look at, I’m hedging my bets.
Now, I don’t think I should be too scathing about the match system. Having met a good few of my supermatches, I can see why the algorithm has put us together. If someone matches highly with you, you’re probably from similar sorts of background. Your political and religious beliefs converge; you’re educated to roughly the same level; you agree about the relative sizes of celestial bodies and you’re highly unlikely to have a blazing row at a seafood restaurant about whether or not clams are alive.
I’d also say that, compared with other dating sites, OkCupid is probably on the money. eHarmony, for instance, matches people via the slippery system of psychometrics. This is tenuous. I prefer the OkCupid party line that you’ll be drawn to those with similar opinions, rather than those with a ‘complementary personality type’.
The fact remains, however, that as a gauge of attraction, no internet algorithm is fully to be trusted. It cannot tell you about smell, or chemistry, or physical rapport, or about that knotty rope of association and memory and personal idiosyncrasy that sometimes, against all logic, tugs at your guts. All it can ever do is what OkCupid does best, which is weeding out the neo-Nazi clam-deniers.
In the meantime, when it come to meeting my 168 99% matches, it looks like I’m going to have a busy week.