A virtual Valentine’s: 5C students search for love at first site with Datamatch

A computer with the data match website open sits next to a box of chocolates on a pink blanket.
For the third year in a row, students at the Claremont Colleges have had the opportunity to participate in Datamatch, a digital dating service. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

A few years before Lucas Cunningham PO ’23 was born, two Ivy League students met on the college dating site Datamatch — and their son Cunningham is proof it was love at first byte. Now, nearly twenty years later, Cunningham, a writer for The Golden Antlers, helped create this year’s compatibility questions on the same matchmaking service. 

“I figure I owe it to them to at least give it a shot,” Cunningham said of his parent’s fateful match. “Datamatch is a really good way to meet people and, who knows, maybe start a family.”

Quite a lot has changed since Cunningham’s parents fell in love on Datamatch — and even more since the dating service’s humble, handwritten beginnings in 1994. Datamatch has gone completely digital, expanding its service to over 30 schools, according to the site’s portal. Since The Golden Antlers partnered with Datamatch to add the 5Cs three years ago, students from the Claremont Colleges are in the top 10 of the most sign-ups for the service, earning the consortium a place on the list of “thirstiest schools.”

Despite Datamatch continuing to grow in size over the years, the goal of the algorithm has remained the same: matching compatible students so they can connect on campus and “find true love.” However, with a global pandemic putting 5C students and many others online this semester, Datamatch faced a new challenge.

Feb. 14, 2021 marks the Claremont Colleges’ first Valentine’s Day off campus in years, but that doesn’t mean the students weren’t connected. As an alternative to mindless swipe rights — and most of the time, left — and binge-watching romantic comedies on the holiday alone, Datamatch gave single students an extra special love day through their computer screens with Zoom dates and online chatting with their matches to make sure love could go the distance.

As seen on the site’s portal, Datamatch got quite a facelift this year, but what’s on the inside matters most — its algorithm. With the help of The Golden Antlers and writers such as Cunningham, Datamatch curated more than twenty questions that are simultaneously raunchy and relevant to the Claremont community in its compatibility survey this year. 

I think there’s something really special about the Datamatch algorithm — it’s almost too effective.” —Lucas Cunningham PO ’23

“I think there’s something really special about the Datamatch algorithm — it’s almost too effective,” Cunningham said. “Data scientists are saying as few as 12 questions can determine compatibility, and Datamatch has way more than that this year.” 

This year’s launch of Datamatch also included new features for students to add their social media pages, giving matches access to each other’s Instagram, TikTok and Spotify. Despite not being in person, students such as Izzy Alduino PZ ’24 are pleased that Datamatch provided its users with plenty of opportunities to show off their personalities. 

“It feels like a more Gen-Z type of Tinder,” Alduino said. “All the questions in the surveys you can fill out were making me laugh. It could have some potential.”

Other students like Annie Palacio SC ’23 find more joy in the Datamatch process than the algorithm’s match results. 

“It is not my first time doing Datamatch; I did it last year. I always like seeing the questions that [The] Golden Antlers come up with every year and [sending] them to my friends to joke around,” Palacio said. “I’ll probably do it every year. I think it’s fun, even if I don’t meet the love of my life.”

Despite all of Datamatch’s aesthetic updates this year, not every student is quite as satisfied. Cade Novara PO ’23 found himself underwhelmed by the service.

“Of course, I participated in Datamatch expecting to find love, find a husband and find a provider. Instead, I was sorely disappointed,” Novara said. “This year, we’re not in person. I just don’t understand what the hype is. You could match with the love of your life, and he could be in Ohio because we’re remote.”

Of course, I participated in Datamatch expecting to find love, find a husband and find a provider. Instead, I was sorely disappointed.” —Cade Novara PO ’23

However, many students have not forgotten the first rule of dating: It’s a numbers game. Users such as Kenric Jameison PZ ’23 see potential for Datamatch if the website can manage to cast a wider net in future years. 

“I don’t think it’s going to become the new Claremont Tinder or anything,” Jameison said. “But it’s all just about encouraging more students to take advantage of what it can offer, which can’t be forced — but it can be advertised.” 

For the undergraduate gentlemen, ladies and non-binary folks in waiting, the numbers on the site’s portal don’t lie: Datamatch users increase every year, meaning there’s plenty more fish in the cyber sea. This year alone, Datamatch scored a pretty good catch, convincing over 1,200 Claremont students to sign up.

With more students also comes more options. Datamatch isn’t limited to just romantic matches, but also allows users to specify for friendship matches, offering over 11 different profiles for its users to match with on Valentine’s Day. Cunningham hopes for more next year. 

“I really hope Datamatch will continue to expand its reach. In an ideal world, everyone would be on it,” Cunningham said. “It’s a reality that at places like the Claremont Colleges, we only have a few opportunities to really connect with everyone, unlike at a big school. In a certain sense, elite institutions really need that extra help.”

Although Datamatch as a computer-generated algorithm is meant to take all the guesswork out of finding a soulmate, users like Ella Menashe PO ’23 are still ready to let life surprise them. In the future, Menashe hopes that there’s a chance that a new best friend or someone more is just a click away. 

“I think the intentions of Datamatch are really good and could be a really cool way to just get to know people in a pandemic,” Menashe said. “It could be really cool to get to know people who might have something in common with you, as long as you don’t put too much weight on it, because I think the best friendships are formed more organically.”

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