The Student
Science
The probability of finding love

The landscape of dating and meeting new people has been upended in the past few years with the introduction of online dating. Popular dating apps like Tinder and Bumble allow people to upload pictures in their profiles to give an impression about themselves, giving people an opportunity to hide physical characteristics they may be insecure about and present an impression that is not always the truth.

Hannah Fry, in her TED Talk, gives some “mathematically verifiable tips for love,” which could help some of these people. In her talk, Fry references an OKCupid study, which says that posting photos we may be insecure about may be the way to go. This way, competition is reduced. In the case of socially accepted “attractive” pictures, some people may choose to swipe left in the fear that they may not get a reply and would be wasting their time. Also, it would reduce competition in that the people who don’t think the person on their screen is attractive wouldn’t send a message anyway. Fry encourages dating app users to upload pictures that show their insecurities, as it doesn’t matter if everyone likes them – just those few right people.

Finding those few people is difficult. It’s important to remember some people don’t even want to put themselves out there. Not only that, but simple criteria like gender, age range, and education lower peoples’ options considerably.

People outside marital relationships may have it even harder. Such individuals tend to be assigned larger workloads, reducing the amount of time they get to spend outside the office. According to a report by the organization Opportunity Now, 25,000 workers found that two-thirds of childless women aged 28 to 40 felt that they were expected to work longer hours.

Another tip Fry gives is based on something called the optimal stopping theory. The theory states that one should reject everyone they meet in the first 37 per cent of their dating life, and then choose the person who is the best they’ve come along so far. One caveat is that, according to the theory, one cannot choose one of the partners they previously rejected or have a chance to see the partners that they could have dated in the future.

Although finding a long-term partner is important for many individuals, people who are happy are not necessarily always in committed relationships. A study conducted in 2005 stated that “little support was found for the assumption that people with a high level of well-being select themselves into more committed relationships.” In a monogamous society, such as our own, there is a lot of pressure on people to decide without being able to discover many choices or having a look at the broader picture. Finding a partner is not easy for anyone. Neither is choosing one, yet our society makes loneliness into a personal flaw.

I wish I could end with a positive romantic message, but the truth is relationships are tricky, and way too complex to generalise into one phrase.

Be careful, love yourself, and enjoy the ones you have right now.

Image credit: Andrew Avdeev via Unsplash