Two thirds of singles in the UK use online dating sites to find love these days, it’s a £2 billion industry worldwide.
But there are still many of us who are wary about putting ourselves out there so publicly in the search for ‘The One’.
Shows like “Catfish” shed light on the murky waters of false internet identities, as 30-year-old marketing executive Jack turns out to be 52-year-old basement dweller Clive – putting some us off for life.
But what if the site you're using is the one who lies to you?
Yesterday the founder of OkCupid informed his customers that that was exactly what the “best free dating site on Earth” had been doing, and they weren’t a bit sorry.
In a blog post entitled “We Experiment On Human Beings!”, Christian Rudder expressed a very cavalier attitude to the fact that OkCupid had been lying to its users and setting them up with bad matches for secret psychological experiments and evaluations.
“I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website.”
Comforting stuff to hear from the people that millions of us trust to help us find genuine, lasting, love.
Rudder goes on to cite the recent outrage at Facebook who admitted to “experimenting” on some of their users by prioritising positive stories in their news feeds to see the effect on positive vs negative posts.
However, there is a big difference between a social experiment on positive posts and misleading someone to believe they might have found a love match.
OkCupid hid photos, removed text and matched profiles that they knew to be incompatible, in order to analyse the results.
They took pairs that had only a 30 per cent match rate and told them they were actually 90 per cent compatible and counted the number of first messages sent.
But these aren’t lab rats to be experimented on, these are actual people who have put their electronic heart on their virtual sleeve and according to the founder of WouldLikeToMeet.me, OkCupid have gone too far.
“You’re on a dating site to meet people,” explains Eden Blackman, “And when you get a message from someone it genuinely makes you happy.”
“So to find out that the message was a result of some lab experiment taints the whole process and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
“When you start manipulating results and giving people false hope about conversations they’re going to have, it all starts to feel like Big Brother.”
People use online dating sites to help them meet prospective partners and they take a leap of faith by putting their trust in the chosen company – whether it’s OkCupid, WouldLikeToMeet or Match.com.
They trust that these sites will not only keep their information safe, but will use their resources and algorithms to match them with compatible suitors and to find out that OkCupid have betrayed this trust and taken advantage of their vulnerability is deeply worrying.
“Online dating is just at that cusp of becoming socially acceptable and dropping that stigma,” admits Blackman.
“People are still nervous about putting themselves on this platform and if this had been your first experience of online dating it could put you back six months, scaring people off the whole thing.”
While Blackman strives to bring “honesty and transparency” to online dating, OkCupid are seemingly unrepentant about their manipulation of their users.
“Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work," they said.
It’s a shame because the results of the experiments are interesting, but the cloak and dagger way the results were collected has overshadowed any merit that can be gained from them.
As many of us tiptoe round the edge of the online dating pool, sharks like OkCupid are doing little to entice us into the waters.