Datamatch: Put your romantic life in the hands of an algorithm

This year’s Datamatch survey opened Feb. 7, and closes Wednesday. Matches will be announced on Valentine’s Day (Courtesy: Datamatch)

Do you feel frustrated by the Claremont dating scene? Have you found yourself replicating the mistakes of your parents’ failed marriage? Are you spending your nights lying awake in bed, endlessly swiping through Tinder profiles until the blue light from your phone screen makes your eyes water and every face congeals into an amorphous mass of disappointment?

We’ve all been there.

But fear not — you don’t have to wallow in self-pity any longer! A team of computer science majors at Harvard University have unlocked the secret to true love: an algorithm. This week, water isn’t the only thing pouring down on the Claremont Colleges. The Golden Antlers has teamed up with the Harvard Computer Society to bring Datamatch, a data-driven matchmaking service, to the 5Cs. Let Cupid’s arrows RAIN, baby!

Datamatch was invented by the Harvard Computer Society in 1994 and has since become a long-running Valentine’s Day tradition at the school. According to the Datamatch website, more than 80 percent of the student body signs up annually, which means everyone at Harvard is either really chill and cool, or really single and lame. Last year, Datamatch began to expand to other universities.

“At Harvard in general there’s very much a culture where you’re expected to go out with your date or click ‘interested,’” said Harvard senior Russell Pekala, one of the two supreme cupids behind this year’s Datamatch. “I hope that that kind of cultural expectation of going out in a low-pressure environment is something that Claremont can replicate.”

A low-pressure environment in Claremont? Good luck.

Nevertheless, the 5Cs might be able to learn from Harvard, just this one time.

“We have at least one instance where we’ve heard of people who have gotten married as a result of their Datamatch date,” said Harvard junior Teddy Liu, the second supreme cupid coding the key to our hearts this year.

Added Pekala: “We did a survey two years ago and asked people if they knew of any Datamatch stories. We heard about 12 different couples through that survey that were together just because they had met on Datamatch, and we also heard about at least that many friendships or cool new connections that were formed because of it as well. So it’s more than just romantic connections. We’re proud of all types of connections between people.”

So how does the algorithm actually work? How is it going to help me find my future ex-wife? Sadly, Liu told me that that information is strictly proprietary. Oh, well — I wouldn’t have been able to understand the computer science anyway.

Sign-ups opened on Feb. 6 in Claremont and closed Feb. 13. The Datamatch website reports that 26 percent of students at the 5Cs signed up for the service. On Valentine’s Day morning, participants received an email listing their matches and compatibility percentage.

Pekala told me that, statistically, someone at the Claremont Colleges will find true love. Unfortunately, after mostly matching with people I’ve already ghosted on Tinder, it doesn’t look like that person will be me.

Q&A with Alex Valdesuso-Pinney PZ ’20, editor-in-chief of The Golden Antlers

Why did The Golden Antlers decide that Claremont was in need of Datamatch?

I reached out to them a little over a year ago because I heard about it through the grapevine from one of my friends who said it was at Brown [University] and Harvard. I wanted this to be a non-traditional Tinder/Bumble experience that was funny, but also maybe somewhat realistic.

The Golden Antlers did a matchmaking service in the past, right?

We did a fake matchmaking service. Last year, we were going to send out a toaster and just keep spamming people’s emails with images of toasters. There was a toaster that had a little heart and eyes, like the Brave Little Toaster but more goofy. We were going to send it out and say, “This is the love of your life,” and then we were going to keep on sending messages about the toaster. That just never happened.

That is really unfortunate.

I wish we would’ve gone through with it.

How did the collaboration with Datamatch work? I know the algorithm is secret, but somehow the questions you guys write got matched with the algorithm?

I know that the questions are kind of linked to personality traits and they code them based upon that. But the algorithm is pretty secret.

How did you decide what questions to ask?

We started off by looking at other real matchmaking services, like Plenty of Fish. From there, we tried to put some more Claremont-specific questions and funny answers.

Do you have any words of advice for people taking the quiz on what they should do if they match with somebody they know or don’t really get along with, like an enemy or an ex?

I think the important thing is to not take this too seriously. This algorithm isn’t going to decide whether you should marry them or have 12 kids with them. It should be more like, “You know what? I matched with somebody, let’s see what happens. We both took this quiz, we already have a sort of common background for a first date, we might as well see where it goes.”

What do you think the best first date would be at the Claremont Colleges?

I’m a big proponent of Collins first dates. They are highly underrated. Honestly, it really depends on the person. I have a list that I can make up if people want first date ideas.

That’s very dedicated.

I’m very dedicated to the cause. We also have a couple things planned for people to possibly win some prizes for first date experiences.

What is your hope or vision for the future of Datamatch in Claremont?

I’d love for this to be a thing in Claremont. I’ve already heard so many different conversations about it. People aren’t certain it’s going to work, but I think it’s going to be a really fun time where people will get a list of names and maybe see where that opportunity takes them.

Do you know how many people signed up in the first day?

They haven’t given me any specific numbers, but I’ll show you what they shared with me yesterday. They said, “Super excited about your sign-ups today. You’re about to beat out Brown and Wellesley.”

What are the top songs people should listen to if they’re sad their Datamatch doesn’t like them back?

Just listen to Avril Lavigne’s first album. I think that’s a really, really good way to keep on pushing through everything. Put “Complicated” on repeat and you should be fine.

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