As Britain eases out of lockdown and heads cautiously to the pub, many of us will be turning our minds to a summer romance. Finally, after three months indoors with only your housemates for company, this could be your time. The only problem is your dating app profile. Currently, it consists of a niche Peep Show reference and approximately three blurry pictures from the last time you thought you looked good (2014). If you plan to nail a socially distanced date at some point before the second wave hits, it could be good to have a bit more intel on how the UK's current favourite dating app works, right?
Enter Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge, the millennial dating app with the tagline, "designed to be deleted". I gave her a call to find out more about the workings of the Hinge algorithm, which is claimed to be better geared towards helping users find a long-term partner than other apps on the market. We spoke about why your ex's profile seems to appear every time you open the app, how the "most compatible" is calculated and whether video dates can ever be not awkward.
VICE: Hi Logan! Generally, how does Hinge’s algorithm work?
Logan Ury: We use this Nobel prize-winning algorithm called the Gale-Shapley algorithm [a formula created by economists Lloyd Shapley and Alvin Roth that finds optimal matches between people "trading" in commodities]. It’s not just based on who you are likely to like, it’s also based on who is likely to like you back. It’s all about pairing people who are likely to mutually like one another. Over time, we see who do you like, who do you send comments to, who are you having conversations with. This gives us a clue to, not just to who you’re looking at, but who you are actually engaging with.
Okay. What about when my "most compatible" is someone who isn’t my type at all? Have I been picking the wrong people my whole life?
Over time, Hinge learns who you like and who is most likely to like you back, and that's who shows up in your most compatible. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that you’ve been dating the wrong people, but perhaps it's a good nudge. "If Hinge seems to think that this person and I might work well together, why don’t I give them a chance?" From my dating coach background, clients would say to me, "I met this person but they’re not my type". In my head, I’m like, "This is when it’s going to work out" because perhaps who you thought was your type wasn’t serving you and breaking that bad habit really helps you to overcome whatever it is that has been holding you back and helps you find a great relationship.
Would writing joke answers and posting memes instead of real pictures ruin someone’s chances of finding The One?
The Hinge algorithm wouldn’t be influenced by a meme or writing a jokey answer. The only way that would influence your experience on Hinge is how well other people respond to what you put and for that. In general, anything you put on your profile is the beginning of a conversation and if people feel like that’s helping them to get into the conversations they want to be in, then that’s great. If not, I, personally, would encourage them to play around with what they put on their profile and perhaps try something a little bit more authentic or vulnerable, and see how that changes the types of conversations that they enter into.
Since lockdown began, people have started video dating. How has that been going down for Hinge users?
We’ve done a huge research project into how people are using video dating during the pandemic and the research is based on people who match on Hinge and then use FaceTime or Zoom to go on a video chat date. Over a third of Hinge users who have used video chat dating tell us that they would become exclusive with someone that they’ve only met on video chat.
Yes! People have really been getting to know each other and they’ve been going deep and they feel open to becoming exclusive with a person that they haven’t yet met in person.
Who are video calls most likely to work for?
We did the research at a time when it was not safe for people to meet up in person. The number was highest for men. Forty-three percent of men told us that they were willing to do this with someone who they’ve only met virtually.
I thought video dating would be weird and impersonal. But it seems like there can be benefits to it?
There are a lot of opportunities for people to get into deep and vulnerable conversations. I even heard about the silver linings to this moment, which is people who tend to get physical really quickly, they can’t do that right now because it’s not safe. Whether or not they would have chosen this moment, it’s given them the chance to slow down and get to know someone first, before those hormones get in the way. Some people have found that they’ve actually broken a lot of their bad dating habits because they’ve been forced to date in a new way.