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Dating is really hard work because there is so much uncertainty. Dating is a dance of two people not knowing each other & trying to figure out is it worth spending more of your precious time with this person. It takes time to really know someone. Dating can be both exhausting & discouraging if your interest is not reciprocated. Then add in to the mix so many of us don’t have enough time as it is & dating requires a lot of time.

Let’s Talk About Online Dating & The Data

Dating is really hard work because there is so much uncertainty. Dating is a dance of two people not knowing each other & trying to figure out is it worth spending more of your precious time with this person. It takes time to really know someone.

When you think a date has gone well & you end up ghosted; it’s easy to drown yourself in doubt. The not knowing why you were excited about them & turns out they weren’t can be SO frustrating. When you feel insecure or rejected it can be all too easy to arm yourself with a giant self defense system because you don’t want to be hurt anymore.

Dating requires curiosity instead of criticism. If you are defensive it’s easier to be critical. Curiosity helps you explore and continue the search by being interested in sharing stories of who you both are. Sharing stories requires some measure of vulnerability instead of putting on a show.

On my website I offer 80 questions on the Communications page with a link to 80 more questions on my blog. These questions can help develop your curiosity. They are interesting questions; tell me something you are proud of, what quality do you value most in your friends, what about popular culture do you most enjoy & has that changed since high school? Curiosity can make many dates more interesting, even if you never see them again. Everybody has stories to tell if you make time & the opportunity for them. I’ve been so honored to hear so many stories from strangers for more than 40 years & I’ve never been bored yet.

Dating well means not talking endlessly about your EX & blaming them for all the problems. In fact I’ve told my single dating clients to arm themselves by asking the question “What did you do to contribute to problems in the last relationship that didn’t work out?” This is a question I would hope all clients who are in good therapy can answer. Blame is immature & every relationship has something to teach us. Taking responsibility for your part in the problems is what growing up is all about. I’ll remind you of one of my favorite Gestalt quotes “Growing up is honestly facing painful situations.” 

I suspect another reason dating is hard these days is because there is less truth telling going on. For relationships to last there needs to be an ability to talk about hard things because the differences between you & everyone else are inevitable. So practicing with small truths in dating can improve your chances of success. I’m not suggesting baring your soul but being real with moments of authenticity.

Constantly avoiding conflict by ignoring things that bother you keeps things superficial. Disagreement is a part of every relationship & being able to disagree with respect is really important. In our culture today it’s acceptable to avoid truthful disagreement or to protect ourselves with ugly behavior. These are both extremes which is where problems go to breed & flourish. W.hat’s important is the middle ground, experimenting with small moments of truth when it matters. 

Today’s guest is Michael Kaye is the Head of Global Communications at OkCupid, one of the world’s largest dating apps. Welcome I’m so delighted you are data driven & can share with us today! 

Rhoda: So, while technology has made dating easier in many ways, do you agree dating is harder than it was 10 years ago? & what are your thoughts about this? 

Michael Kaye: To be honest, I think life is harder. We all have so many things going on right now, & there’s so much happening in the world. Even if you look at the last just couple of years alone, we’ve lived through a global pandemic, the largest Civil Rights Movement in many of our lives, a divisive presidential election, rise in anti-semitism, & anti-Asian attacks, anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping the country. These are things that are impacting our personal lives. So, it’s also impacting our dating lives. It’s all really heavy on us. 

So yes, I think dating definitely has brand new challenges in today’s day & age. But I also think a lot of parts of our lives have different challenges than maybe our parents or grandparents went through. 

Rhoda: I would agree. Absolutely. & I’m at least twice as old as you, I’m guessing. A Pew study from October 2019, said that certain characteristics about someone else would give them pause. Distance, debt, voting for Donald Trump topped the list of reasons singles looking for relationship wouldn’t consider a potential partner. Also 38% say dating someone 10 years older than them, would give them pause, & 36% say the same thing about dating someone who is raising children from another relationship? Does OkCupid have questions that address some of these concerns? 

Michael Kaye: Yes. So, for anyone who’s unfamiliar with OKCupid, or our platform, we match you on what matters to you through thousands of in-app questions. That does not mean you have to sit there & answer thousands of questions. There’s just a lot to choose from. & it’s about everything related to dating, relationships & sex, but also anything that’s top of mind. 

So, if you’re talking about it with your friends, with your family, with your co-workers, with strangers, we probably have a question on it. & we ask all the questions so that you don’t have to, we want to make sure that by the time you get to an in-person date, you are most likely going out with someone who’s very aligned with your values & your beliefs. So we asked our daters, could you date someone with a considerable amount of debt? We even asked about your method for paying off debt. We also ask if you could fall in love with someone who has a child, if you could date someone who couldn’t have children, even if you could, if you would have children with someone without being married to them. 

& we also are actually the only dating app in the world with a Trump filter. So, if you’re not into Trump supporters, that’s okay. That’s not a problem on our app. We’ll make sure that you don’t come across any of them. & with all our questions, it works both ways. So we want to make sure that in your busy life, if you’re spending time on OkCupid, that we are serving you & showing you people you’re most compatible with based on what you said you’re looking for, what they said they’re looking for, & how you’re both answering our questions. 

Rhoda: I really like that. The same Pew study said about one in 10 partnered adults 12% say they met their partner online, while another study I found said it was 40% about one in five partnered adults aged 18 to 29, 21% say they met their partner online, & 28% of partnered LGB adults, say they met their partner online. 

I spend a lot of time asking clients to try it. That is the truth. Because it’s an ordinary way to meet people. What can you share with my audience to help them understand online dating is not for losers as a client a couple of weeks ago, said who’s in her 60s, & I said, “No, it’s not.” There was a New York Times article that said it actually worked better 40 & up. Give me your data. I’m really interested. 

Michael Kaye: Yes. So, first of all, we’ve been around for almost 20 years, so clearly, it’s working, no business would survive that long if it wasn’t having an impact, or some level of success. At OKCupid, I work closely with data scientist, behavioral psychologists, dating coaches, & sociologists. & what we’re hearing again & again, is that dating apps work because people used to meet at places like church or temple, but people aren’t going to gathering places like that anymore, or not as much as previous generations. & you mentioned the data, so if that’s not enough for you. We’ve seen more than 3 million people on our app alone, say they know someone who married someone they met on a dating app. So that’s millions & millions of people on our app who came to OkCupid because they know someone who is in a successful marriage, who met their partner online, because that’s where people are meeting these days. 

Rhoda: Yeah, that’s absolutely what I agree with, totally. I was fascinated when you shared with me, this year, there was a 21% increase in mentions of mental health & therapy on OkCupid profiles between February & July. & 99% of more than one & a half million people on OkCupid said mental health is as important as physical health. Could you share more about that? 

Michael Kaye: Yes, so one trend we’ve seen over the past few years. & I think it’s a result of what we’ve all gone through during the pandemic, is that people are becoming more transparent & more vulnerable on dating apps, specifically, OkCupid. & one thing that they’re discussing more often than they ever were previously, is mental health & their own mental health. & they’re sharing more about their mental health journey, they’re sharing that this is something that’s really important to them now. & they’re also talking about therapy. So, people are not only writing about their own mental health, & that they’re going to therapy in the prompts that we provide them. That means people are voluntarily writing about this topic it on their profiles, but they’re also answering our questions about mental health & therapy. 

&, again, just for anyone who’s unfamiliar, there’s not a single question on OKCupid out of the thousands that are mandatory, meaning, if you answer a question, that’s completely your option, everyone has the opportunity to skip a question, if it doesn’t relate to them, or it’s not important to them, or it simply makes them uncomfortable. So it’s nice to see that we used to shy away from these topics years ago, I know I didn’t talk about my own mental health journey 5, 10 years ago, & it’s almost second nature now, we’re more comfortable with it. & it’s really nice to see people showing that sensitive side to them, & it’s benefiting them. 

Rhoda: Absolutely. I always say I would never go to a therapist who hadn’t done their own mental health work. & when I used to get asked to speak at the Graduate School of Social Work, people would tell me that I was the first person to mention that, & I was just so upset about it. Because mental health means you have to do your own work so you don’t project it on other people. & if you’re comfortable with going, then you’re going to respect people’s journey. So, I think it’s really important. I’m delighted to hear that about the questions on OkCupid. I think that’s really cool. I love that you have an in app matching question on OkCupid that reads, ‘how do you feel about discussing mental health with your partner?” What statistics do you have on that? 

Michael Kaye: Yeah, this is one that I personally loved because it went beyond the individual work & gets deeper into what you’re willing to do with a partner for your own benefit, for their benefit, & for the benefit of your relationship. So what we’re seeing is that when it comes to discussing mental health, with their partners, over 7 & 10 men on our app said it’s important, & they’re open to doing it, while 20% agreed, it’s important, but they were open & honest in saying that it’s going to take them a little bit of time to become comfortable with it. & that’s absolutely okay. & men who said that discussing mental health with their partners is important to them, & that they’re open & open to it, are receiving 49% more matches, & 74% more likes than men who said, ‘You know what, it’s not important, & I’m not going to do it.” 

So not only is this a great thing to do for yourself, & for your romantic partner, but there’s benefits to being open to this, when it comes to your own success on a dating app. Because who doesn’t want to find a partner who’s willing to commit themselves to a relationship & create the best possible relationship that you can possibly have? & if you need support through therapy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

Rhoda: & I think there’s also something about if you’re willing to work on yourself & look at yourself, then you’re more likely to want be willing to work on the relationship when it has problems, which is often the years 6 to 10, one of the big things I read a lot about is it’s very, very ordinary, because the illusions, all the love & the honeymoon fall apart year 6 to 10 & that’s when the real infrastructure work happens. So, if you have a partner that’s willing to look at themselves, I think it would make sense if they’d be more willing to work on the relationship. So, I think that’s really cool, I do. What other statistics & insights do you have to share about therapy & whether or not it’s a good thing from a dating point of view? 

Michael Kaye: I don’t know if there’s a limit to how many statistics we have. As you mentioned in the beginning, we are definitely a very data-driven app. But another thing we’re seeing is that among about 70,000 daters on our app, 61% of those respondents believe therapy is good for people & 33% believe it’s necessary. What I love seeing is that only 5%, were saying that it’s not really for them. & only 1% of people in that group did not believe in therapy. & that’s really nice to see. 

& over the past few months in the United States, men on OkCupid, who said they believe therapy is good for people or necessary, received 86% more likes & 49% more matches, compared to men who said it’s not for them. They also received 100% more likes than men who don’t believe in therapy. & we’re seeing this trend really driven by the younger generation. So, it’s no surprise to most people, Gen Z, especially, & even Millennials, are more open to talking about their own mental health. & that’s really impacting everyone in the dating space. 

On our app, Gen Z men & Millennial men are more likely than Gen X men to believe therapy as necessary, & Gen Z men are the least likely to say therapy is not for them. So, thank you to the younger generations, they really aren’t driving this trend. But it is something that’s impacting anyone, regardless of age. 

Rhoda: That is just terrific. It really is. What has your research determined about men who are dating & what they think about couples therapy? 

Michael Kaye: Yeah, so we, of course, no surprise, we ask about couples therapy. & 43% of men said they’d be open to it, if it’s something that’s really important to their partner. & 35% of men said they just think it’s great. Again, only 5% admitted that they would not try it. & 16% said they’re a little bit skeptical of it, but they would give it a shot. So overwhelming majority of men are open to it, either excited or just willing to try it. 

Rhoda: I’m going to add in there that it’s a safer space with couples therapy if you feel not just supported but also challenged with truth & that you experienced that happening with both people in the couple session. Too many therapists are, I think, doing the positive, you know, kind, which is I’ll find but you’ve got friends for that most people, & being able to be challenged on the connections from childhood that affect the relationship now, & thinking in new ways of thinking about themselves. So, I just want to inject that I think that’s really important to happen. 

I think it’s harder to find a good couples therapist than it is to find a good individual therapist, & you also have to be able to be comfortable spilling your guts. What can people do to have a better profile? I’m sure people are curious about this & to give themselves improved chances at success? 

Michael Kaye: Yes, this is a question I get pretty often. So, there’s a few things that you can do. First of all, ask your friends for help. That’s who knows you best ask your friends or family, if they would be open to sitting with you & filling out your profile, it takes a little bit of the pressure off of you. & it’s nice to do it with someone who knows you pretty well. 

Another tip is be positive with everything you write in your profile prompts. The biggest turnoff I see is someone saying “swipe left if.” So, it’s definitely important to have your checklist of what’s important to you. That’s great. But instead of focusing on your deal breakers, highlight your dealmakers. So, think about what makes you swipe right on someone. Or why do you want someone to swipe right on you. That’s what you should be shining a light on. You don’t want someone’s first impression of you, when they’re reading your profile to be all your dislikes, or things that you hate. 

Another tip is when you’re filling out prompts, or you’re writing your About summary, try to make lists—lists of things people can respond to. So, what are the books you’re currently reading? What are the songs that are always on any of your Spotify playlists? What vacations Do you still want to go on? People need help with that first intro message. So, if you’re giving them something to respond to, that makes it so much easier to break the ice, because the last thing you want to do is open with “hey, hi, hello,” that actually has an extremely high rate of being ignored. But you’ve got to give someone something to work off of. 

Also use different kinds of photos. Sometimes I see people using five different types of the same selfie. But upload photos of things you love to do, whether that’s going to a concert or running or traveling. With everything you put into your profile, whether it’s writing it in or uploading a photo, it needs to serve a purpose, it really should be a conversation starter. That’s the tip that I always give people. 

& then lastly, don’t just upload your profile & forget it. Here’s an insider tip from someone who actually works at a dating app, update your profile, let’s say…Let’s set a benchmark. So maybe once a month, that doesn’t mean you have to create a whole new profile from scratch. But change up a couple of your photos & maybe add something new to your profile prompts. What’s going to happen on the back end is that the algorithm is going to see all this changing activity to your profile. & it’s going to fuse the app, & it’s going to think you’re a new user. & that means it’s going to start showing you again to more & more people. So you don’t want to have a stagnant profile, update it every few weeks, about once a month, & just make minor tweaks here & there. 

Rhoda: Oh, I like that I really do. It also shows you’re paying attention & you’re thinking about it & matters to you that you’re not just dead in the water, kind of thing. This is a two-part question. I believe expectations can contribute to dating problems. Just one example would be thinking or hoping that this date will be the last one. What are your thoughts on this? & what are people looking for in dating now? What has changed? 

Michael Kaye: Yeah, well, I think you should definitely go into any date with a positive attitude. I don’t know if I necessarily go on a date thinking it’s going to end in marriage & kids. That puts way too much pressure on the data & it’s likely going to psych yourself out. & if you’re not on it, someone else is going to read that energy off of you, & they might interpret it as you not being interested in them, but you might be really interested in them. But you’re stressing yourself out internally. So, I don’t like when people put too much pressure on the first date. 

Honestly, they could be awkward. It’s a little bit nerve wracking. I don’t think the first date needs to be the best possible date in the world. I definitely think you should pay attention to red flags on a first date. But we all put way too much pressure on a first date. & I attribute that to movies who tell us & show us that there’s one quick moment that you have with someone, & all of a sudden, you’re head over heels in love. That’s just not the reality. 

I was talking to a friend the other day, who said she went on a date with this guy, there were no sparks, but there were no red flags. & she went on a second date, & a third date. & the more she got to know him, the more she started to like him. They are now in a committed long-term relationship. They are in love with each other. They’re living with each other. & can you imagine what would have happened if she, in the first few minutes, thought, there’s no spark? I’m done. This isn’t my happily ever after. So don’t do that. 

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