These 4 Infographs Say A Lot About Online Dating

Love_In_The_Time_Of_Algorithms_5th_SlideIllustrated By Ly Ngo. Image: Courtesy of DATACLYSM: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking, by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Published by Crown, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
Dataclysm, the title of OkCupid co-founder and president Christian Rudder's book, out today, is a cute portmanteau for a big idea. The traces we leave behind as we conduct our online lives can help us understand who we are and what we believe, hope, desire, love, hate, and fear — not when a researcher is in the room surveying a "representative sample" of us, but rather when all of the billions of us who are active online think no one is looking.
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Turns out, Christian Rudder is looking. And, his experiments on OkCupid users, which we covered in July, are just the tip of the iceberg. His book's title nods to the almost unfathomable deluge of personal data (in the form of the digital breadcrumbs we leave on social sites and apps) that is available for analysis today. Over OkCupid's 10 years in existence, Rudder and his colleagues have sifted through users' minute details — where QTpie217 lives, what medSTUDent109 thinks of horror movies — to arrive at broader theories of human attraction and bring compatible individuals together through their algorithms. Online dating has evolved into an indispensable pillar of modern coupling, and OkCupid has been at the vanguard of that charge. As Rudder writes, on any given evening, 30,000 couples meet for the first time thanks to the site. Of those couples, 3,000 will date, 200 will marry, and many of these married couples will have children. "There are children alive and pouting today," Rudder writes, "grouchy little humans refusing to put their shoes on right now, who would never have existed but for the whims of our HTML."
Rudder's work extends beyond the science of love. His book's graphs, charts, and commentary leverage data from across the 'net to expose: how what you "Like" on Facebook can reveal everything from your sexual orientation to your history with drugs; why #heyboo is one of the hashtags most used by Twitter users with over 1,000 followers; and where in the country people believe that burning the flag should be illegal. The book is compulsively readable — including for those with no particular affinity for numbers in and of themselves — and surprisingly personal. Starting with aggregates, Rudder posits, we can zoom in on the details of how we live, love, fight, work, play, and age; from numbers, we can derive narrative. There are few characters in the book, and few anecdotes — but the human story resounds throughout.
Ahead, a sampling of Dataclysm's most compelling infographics.
Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One's Looking, by Christian Rudder, $17.25, available at Amazon.
Love_In_The_Time_Of_Algorithms_W4M_rev-1Illustrated By Ly Ngo. Image: Courtesy of DATACLYSM: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking, by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Published by Crown, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
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This chart plots the ages of (heterosexual) women versus the ages of the men who appear most desirable to them, using data from OkCupid. (Rudder explains why this data is so great: Users don't misrepresent their desires; why would they? Preferences aren't traced to them as individuals, and misstating these predilections would lead to less-than-ideal matches). We can see that women who are 20 and 21 dig 23-year-old men, 23- and 24-year-old women are after 25-year-old guys, and so on down the line until finally, at age 31, women want a partner their own age — and then younger thereafter. Women aren't looking for a man any older than 40 until they're at least 49. (Do men not get hotter after age 40? Perhaps.)
Love_In_The_Time_Of_Algorithms_M4W_rev-1Illustrated By Ly Ngo. Image: Courtesy of DATACLYSM: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking, by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Published by Crown, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
In this chart, we see the ages of (heterosexual) men plotted against the ages of the women they deem hottest. Men, regardless of age, are most attracted to women in their early 20s (is anyone surprised?). Rudder calls this "Wooderson's Law," after Matthew McConaughey's iconic Dazed and Confused character. (Signature line: "That's what I like about these high-school girls. I get older; they stay the same age.")
Love_In_The_Time_Of_Algorithms_Love_Sex_MapIllustrated By Ly Ngo. Image: Courtesy of DATACLYSM: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking, by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Published by Crown, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
Here, we shift from comparing the sexes to comparing the states. What's most important to each state's population: sex, or love? According to OkCupid's data, the reddest states value sex most highly, while the palest states are all about the love. Those in the northwest and north-central regions are more interested in getting it on than anyone else; Rudder notes that inhabitants of these areas consistently rank as the most sexually aggressive in the country based on their online-dating data.
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Love_In_The_Time_Of_Algorithms_Shower_Rev-1Illustrated By Ly Ngo. Image: Courtesy of DATACLYSM: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking, by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Published by Crown, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
Finally, we turn to that all-important ideological question of how often you shower. Yes, that is a metric OkCupid tracks in order to pair you with your dream mate. The darkest states shower rarely; the lightest shower the most often. Rudder points out that the distribution reflects weather patterns — you'd expect people in hot states to shower more — but cultural trends are evident, too. Living up to its hippie rap, Vermont is the least-showered state (but also one that highly values sex — guess those Green Mountain folks really are cool snuggling up to some B.O.).