Online Dating Offlined (or Don’t Waste Money Paying for Online Dating)

This is something I’ve been thinking about writing about for a few years, but just never took the time to put together the numbers and write it down. Unfortunately, while I’ve reconstructed some of the numbers, I’ve lost some of the math. But if you’re really interested in checking out what I say, the numbers could be reconstructed using Google and spending some time searching.

I was on eHarmony from close to the beginning until about 2010, when I started a relationship with someone I met offline, through ballroom dancing. But from about 2009 on, I stayed on eHarmony only out of the slim chance it might work. By then I had learned something important: eHamrony is hiding important figures that show them as more of a failure than a success. A lot of online dating services are doing this.

True, there are people who meet through online dating and people who get married to someone they’ve met online, but after playing with some numbers, it turns out your chances of meeting someone online is far less than meeting someone special in person.

Here’s the short of it: While discussing this with other people in a forum, I realized eHarmony made two claims repeatedly. The first was how many marriages per day or week they could claim from members and the other was how many members they have. So I did the simple thing and found their membership claims for 2005 by Googling. Then I took the number of members and the marriages per week and worked out the marriage rate per 1,000 members. It came to between 3.5 and 3.8. Roughly 3.7 per 1,000. The numbers I don’t have in front of me are their claims for 2005, but they can be found with Google. Or I challenge eHarmony to provide those numbers. I’ve challenged them before, on a forum where eHarmony people spend time. They’ve never responded.

Now here’s what makes a difference: I looked at the U.S. census info for 2005 and checked the marriage rate. Before I give the actual numbers, here’s a reminder: The marriage rate per 1,000 people is how many adults out of 1,000 get married in that year. This includes Priests, prisoners, pensioners, and people that don’t want to get married. It includes married adults. In short, it includes ALL adults in the U.S. Now compare that with eHarmony, which is a site for people interested in serious relationships.

Think about this: if you have two populations, the first composed of people seeking serious relationships, and the other full of people who are already married and people who can’t or won’t marry, which one should have a higher marriage rate? Answer: The one with people seeking relationships. Almost everyone in that population is not only eligible for marriage, but is seeking either marriage or a serious relationship. In the other population, you have a large number of people not interested in marriage or finding a serious relationship.

So now we get to numbers. Check the U.S census. In 2005 the marriage rate was over 7 per 1,000 adults. Compare that with eHarmony, with a marriage rate of roughly 3.7 per 1,000. The eHarmony rate, which should be higher is roughly HALF of the U.S. marriage rate.

If you’re single, your chances of finding a spouse in real life are actually double your chances of finding a spouse through eHarmony. Now, go on YouTube and search for eHarmony ads. See if what they say matches the facts.

While still on eHarmony in 2009 I asked a phone consumer representative for their marriage rate and membership numbers. I didn’t write down the numbers, but I made a note that the marriage rate for their membership had gone down since then.

Now, if you don’t believe me, do this: Call eHarmony customer service. Tell them you’re thinking of joining and ask for two numbers: How many marriages they have per day or week and how many members they have. Then do the math. You’ll find their marriage rate is about half or less than the marriage rate of the U.S. population.

There’s a few other points to go with that. I found an article a while back written by the owner of OKCupid.com. He has since pulled the article, claiming it is out of date. (He’s also, since then, sold his site to Match.com, which makes me suspect of his reasoning for pulling hte article.) However, thanks to GeekOSystem.com, the article is still online. Here’s the link to the original GeekOSystem article and here’s the link to the screenshot of the article. (If your browser gives you a long picture down the left of your window, click on it to be able to read the whole thing.)

Go through the article. Notice the points he makes, including that it benefits eHarmony and other pay sites to not show which members are paying (and can communicate) and which can’t. This is a feature that causes endless frustration to paying clients while creating more of a cashflow for the business. There’s a number of other points in there I won’t restate here. While Yagan, the OkCupid CEO, claims numbers are not all accurate, go through the article and see how much of his reasoning makes sense even if his numbers are off. Much of what he says is still valid even if his numbers are off.

The main point is that if you’re paying for an online dating site, you MAY meet someone. But if you pay for a VA Lotto ticket every week, you MAY win a few million dollars as well. And that’s what online dating is: A lottery. There are enough free sites. Think about it: I was on eHarmony for 8-10 years and not once did I have a date that led to even a kiss. I made some good friends, but nothing romantic. I won’t get into what a good match I am or am not, but I will ask: Do you want to trust a site to find you a romantic partner when they can’t even claim to have more than half the marriage rate of the U.S. adult population?

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