When Facebook launched in 2004, Scott Valdez used it to find women who attended the University of Georgia. He sent them dozens of messages using one of five pickup lines, and then recorded the women’s responses and response rate in a spreadsheet. He applied his algorithm to Plenty of Fish (POF), and hired a guy on Craigslist to manage his POF profile for him.
Scott’s personal experiment laid the groundwork for his matchmaking service, called ViDA Select. It’s now the biggest virtual dating service of its kind.
Here’s how it works: Dozens of remote consultants– from a stylist, to a photo analyst, to an app-swiper– work together to curate and manage your online dating profiles for you– with the promise of finding you the perfect match. ViDA will create a profile for you on any of the most popular dating apps, from Tinder to Bumble.
The more you pay, the more dates you get. Packages can range from $695 a month for 2-6 dates, to $1,295 a month for 6-12 dates.
But here’s where ViDA goes beyond regular matchmaking services: they even have a ghostwriter, who uses Scott’s messaging algorithm to flirt with your matches on your behalf. Once your ghostwriter gets you a date’s number, they send you a transcript of all the messages he writes on your behalf, so that you can memorize them ahead of your date.
“We have the ability to go through and download all the profiles [on the apps] in the local area. The algorithm, what it does is based on millions of messages that we've already sent, it predicts who are the users that are most likely to respond to the client based on all of that client's demographic,” said Valdez. “So we’re able to identify the people who are most likely to respond, to what day they're most likely to respond to a message, and what message they're most likely to respond to.”
Everyone fudges on dating apps. But ViDA takes that fudging to the extreme. How far is too far?
VICE News put the process to the test.
This segment originally aired July 26, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.