What You Don’t Know About Online Dating (Ep. 154)

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(Photo Credit: non-defining)

(Photo Credit: non-defining)

This week’s episode is called “What You Don’t Know About Online Dating.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The episode is, for the most part, an economist’s guide to dating online. (Yes, we know: sexy!) You’ll hear tips on building the perfect dating profile, and choosing the right site (a “thick market,” like Match.com, or “thin,” like GlutenfreeSingles.com?). You’ll learn what you should lie about, and what you shouldn’t. Also, you’ll learn just how awful a person can be and, if you’re attractive enough, still reel in the dates.

First you’ll hear Stephen Dubner interview Alli Reed, a comedy writer living in Los Angeles, who conducted an experiment of sorts on OkCupid:

REED: I wanted to see if there was a lower limit to how awful a person could be before men would stop messaging her on an online dating site.

So she created a fake profile for a woman she called “AaronCarterFan” (Aaron Carter, for the uninitiated, is the younger brother of a Backstreet Boy.) Reed loaded her profile with despicable traits (see the whole list below) but used photos of a model friend. In the episode, you’ll hear how this works out. (For more, see Reed’s Cracked.com article “Four Things I Learned from the Worst Online Dating Profile Ever.“)

alli profile

Alli Reed’s fake OkCupid profile

oyerThen you’ll hear from Paul Oyer, a labor economist at Stanford and author of the new book Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating. Oyer hadn’t thought much about online dating until he re-entered the dating scene himself after a long absence and was struck by the parallels between the dating markets and labor markets. If only people approached dating like an economist, he thought, they’d be better off.

One brave soul took the challenge. PJ Vogt, a producer of the public-radio show On The Media and co-host of the podcast TLDR. Vogt opened up his OkCupid profile to let Oyer dissect and, theoretically, improve it. You’ll hear what Vogt had done right, what Oyer thinks was wrong, and what happens when you update your profile, economist-style.

Finally, the economist Justin Wolfers points out one of the most revolutionary benefits of online dating — finding matches in traditionally “thin” markets:

WOLFERS: So I do think it’s a really big deal for young gay and lesbian men and women in otherwise homophobic areas. It’s also a very big deal in the Jewish community. J-Date. All my Jewish friends talk about being under pressure from mum to meet a good Jewish boy or girl, but they don’t happen to be everywhere, but they’re all over J-Date. And I imagine this is true in other ethnic communities. And certainly there are, it’s enormously easy to match on very, very specific sexual preferences.

And since online dating occasionally leads to offline marriage, we’ll look into that topic in next week’s podcast, in the first of a two-parter called “Why Marry?”


lol Who the heck is Erin Carter? honestely that says more about you for knowing this person then for the guys wanting to date you.


This isn't really empirical evidence....the character you have created sounds like an underaged stripper....the girl in the porn video who every guy seems to really be looking for. A good looking moron who will probably sleep with you and then forget who you were in the morning. In other words, a woman who requires NO commitment. To make the character awful to a man, you probably should have made her an avid church attendee who loves her family and is looking for a happy marriage with a kind, christian man. I can guarantee you that NO man would message her then, no matter what she looked like.


The podcast isn't working... (Using a mac and living in London, UK.)

Vinay D Cardwell

Wow, I love that dating profile from the Aaron Carter #1 Fan. That is just riveting!


Sounds about as fake as it gets ....