Online dating can be painful for women and tedious for men, or at least that’s what the latest Ashley Madison hacking saga revelation suggests.
This week, a tech journalist in the US downloaded and analysed all the data stolen from the adultery website and found a “dystopian” reality. If the Ashley Madison database is any indication, web romance is a deafeningly silent experience for most blokes.
“This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database,” Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz wrote.
“Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.”
Of the 5.5 million female profiles, the journalist calculated that close to zero per cent had ever chatted to men or used the site at all after creating a profile — possibly because most of the profiles were fake.
This seemed to accord with data released by another dating website (not designed for cheating) back in 2013.
An employee of the site sent to Business Insider an estimate of the likelihood of getting a response. A man who sent a message to a woman his own age had a 4 per cent chance of a reply, the data revealed. In contrast, a woman who sent one message to a man their age had a 17.5 per cent chance of a reply.
Statistics like these may be why a writer for the website Mama Mia said back in 2013 that she tells all her single guy friends to “watch out” for online dating.
“It is a sad, soul-crushing place where good guys go to die a slow death by way of ignored messages and empty inboxes,” Emily Moss wrote.
Women may fare no better
The story is no rosier for female users, who seem hopelessly outnumbered.
Dr Lauren Rosewarne, author of Intimacy on the Internet, said it was likely many women on dating sites are turned off by annoying and overly sexual messages.
“Female internet users, regardless of whether they are online dating or bloggers, are subject to a higher level of harassment from men online than men experience,” Dr Rosewarne told The New Daily.
“For many women this can motivate them to alter how they use the internet including whether they do so in pursuit of intimacy.”
Females hoping to find the ‘perfect match’, rather than just a casual hookup, could be even more disappointed.
US researchers found in 2012 that the industry’s claims to use mathematical algorithms to boost match compatibility were “likely false”.
“To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works,” Northwestern University lead researcher Dr Eli Finkel said at the time.
Perhaps better for the young, old
But a far better picture emerges in research for those of a particular age and sexual orientation.
A study conducted in 2010 found that, of 2058 French men surveyed, 32.1 per cent had engaged in unprotected sex with partners met online.
Another local researcher found in 2013 that dating websites are increasingly popular — and successful — amongst older Aussies.
Dating app Tinder is also immensely popular amongst younger demographics, so they must be doing something right.
How to find better odds
Match.com claims to have the most users of any dating website in the world (17 million), but it does not release an estimate of Australian members.
According to consumer advocacy group CHOICE, these local dating tools are some of the most popular (and thus probably have the most members):
• RSVP (two million)
• eHarmony (more than a million)
• Oasis Active (about 1.6 million)
• Tinder (Australia is its biggest market outside US and UK)
• OkCupid (no estimate provided)
• Plenty of Fish (estimate unknown)