I've got a love-hate relationship with dating. Sometimes it's magic. Other times I spend too much money and too many hours to achieve only boredom and hangovers. And in these moments I wonder if there's a way to take the inefficiency and general haphazardness out of dating. If I stopped relying on vibes and turned to a more scientific approach, maybe I could—you know—win?
But like all ideas, someone else was way ahead of me. Starting in May 2014 a Seattle-based woman named Carin Fishel started logging every single detail from every date she went on. She wrapped up the experiment in June, with a total of 90 dates with 52 guys in two years. Carin then did the only logical thing someone could do with all that data—she put it together in a PowerPoint presentation, illustrating what she'd learned.
I was curious about those learnings, so I called her up to ask some questions.
VICE: Hey Carin, let's start with your background. What led you to do this?
Carin Fishel: Well I work as a UX designer for a data visualisation company. With this particular project I wanted to take the seriousness out of dating. And as I was also spending so much time on dates, I wanted to create something out of it. That way if the dates didn't work, at least it wouldn't be time wasted.
Did you tell the guys you were doing this?
No, I learned not to pretty quickly. A lot of guys were super freaked out about it. Especially the non-tech guys—the musicians and the artists, they got paranoid.
Yeah, I can imagine. How were you collecting the data?
In a huge Excel spread sheet. I collected everything from age, where they were from, their height, how we met, total dates, did we have sex, did we kiss, does he want kids, how many messages were sent before we met. Then everyone got a rating out of one to five. One was, "I don't care about this person" and five was, "I can't get them out of my head." Then, after two years, I turned the data into a PowerPoint presentation.
So what was your first realisation?
That I've spent 334.5 hours on dates.
That seems like a lot. Would you say you're pretty dedicated to dating?
Well, some people would say dating is a numbers game, so the more people you meet the more likely you are to meet somebody. I mean I'm 35, so sometimes I'm like, "I've got to go on dates, I just have to keep trying." Then sometimes I'm like, "I can't do this anymore." I just kind of go up and down.
What was the next thing you realised, looking back on these two years?
That how I meet people has an impact on how much I like them. This slide here (see above) shows how I met everyone and it's coloured by the likeability rating. So I went on the most OKCupid dates, but they were the most grey, so they had the lowest likeability ratings. But the people I actually met in person had the most pink so they had the highest ratings.
I think the issue there was that with Match.com and OKCupid they have a lot of fields to fill out, so you know a lot about the person before you meet them. But they've painted a picture of who you are to them. So you think these people seem so cool, until you meet them. I think a lot of those sites create unhelpful expectations.
What did you learn about who you are attracted to?
Well, an interesting thing is that the people who start out at fives, you'd assume would be the people that you want to meet. But what I found was that the people who start out as three are much better. Those people can grow in numbers, whereas all the fives were just short-term obsessions. It was good to realise this because it showed me I can let go of the fives faster.
Was it weird to meticulously tally up how many people you'd slept with?
No. When you've been single for so long sex doesn't seem like a big deal, because you've got to get it somehow. Maybe the only surprise was that I once thought that if I slept with someone I'd become more attached to them. But if I look at the data I realise that isn't true. I was disappointed with that.
Have you found any other aspects of this project disappointing?
Actually quite the opposite. I think it gave me a better perspective on it all. Like, I used to think I was always getting dumped, but when I look at that pie chart I'm not. Getting dumped 19 percent of the time isn't so bad. So I think this kind of helps me understand the situation better. It helps me to chill out.
How are you feeling about dating now this project is over?
I know I don't want to go on these stupid online dates any more. They're the dumbest thing in the world. They're just staged and it's not how love works.
How do you think love works?
Love? Sometimes I feel like I don't know what that means. Like I haven't watched a romantic comedy in 10 years because I think that gives you an unrealistic view of what love is. When I look at the people whose relationships I really admire, maybe they were friends first or they just met and really liked one another. So I'm kind of at a loss.
Have you ever wondered if it's you?
Of course, I've wondered if I'm too picky but I don't think I can change that. I had other times when I thought, "I can't meet somebody, there's something wrong with me." But that has nothing to do with this project. It's just how everyone feels sometimes.
Ok, last question. After all of this, what advice can you offer me? Have you cracked the code to dating?
No, this project made me feel like I don't know anything about dating. I don't think there is a code.
So you think it's just pure chaos out there?
Pretty much, but there were other upsides. The whole goal behind this project was never to get a man, but to not care so much about getting a man. I definitely achieved that.
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