Why You Should Stop Putting So Much Effort Into Your Online Dating Messages

  • Thursday, October 23 2014 @ 06:43 am
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Yep, you read that headline right. And the news comes straight from the mouth of Christian Rudder, co-founder of OkCupid and writer of the OkTrends blog, so you know it's worth paying attention to.

Messages are usually the most private part of an online dating site, but Rudder gets special access and he's used it for another interesting wave of online dating research.

First, he took a look at the history of technology and how it altered the way we communicate. The notable moment came in 2008, when Apple launched the app store and everything went mobile. The effect on OkCupid users' writing was practically instantaneous. Smartphone-using singles started typing on teeny-tiny keyboards, and as a result message length has dropped by over two-thirds in the 6 years since.

These days, the average message is just over 100 characters. It seems like nothing, but users have adapted. Messages that get the highest response rate are now only 40-60 characters long.

Then Rudder examined how much putting time and effort into messages leads to better results. He looked at messages between 150 and 300 characters and plotted them against the time it took to write them. The outcome? Taking time to craft your messages helps, but only to a point. A peak is reached at around the 120-second mark, and after that you're just overthinking it.

There are also those out there who maximize their time by – sigh – cutting and pasting. And there are a lot of them. All told, 20% of the sample registered 5 or fewer keystrokes per message. “Sitewide,” writes Rudder, “the copy-and-paste strategy underperforms from-scratch messaging by about 25 percent, but in terms of effort-in to results-out it always wins: measuring by replies received per unit effort, it’s many times more efficient to just send everyone roughly the same thing than to compose a new message each time.”

So there you have it. Like it or not, cut/paste is here to stay. It may be a little less effective, but it's far more efficient. Those who choose the CRTL + V strategy are actually just harnessing technology and hacking the online dating process – and doing so is probably making them far more successful than you, person who spends an hour personalizing every message.

RIP faith in humanity, hello more time to spend watching cat videos on YouTube.