Doing it with date-onomics
Just as you wouldn’t invest money blindly, dabbling in the online dating market also calls for clear-sighted strategies to avoid risky prospects.
While listening to your heart rather than your head may feel harmless enough behind a computer screen, critical thinkers are thought to be more likely to avoid poor romantic “investments”.
Help with online dating
Online dating is not just for young digital natives, it has been taken up with gusto among middle-aged and older Australians. But unlike younger romantics, older people who find themselves back in the dating game often feel they need a little help.
That’s the position Stanford economics professor, Paul Oyer found himself in following a divorce. He discovered that the dry art of economics made finding love online more efficient for people like him with less time to waste than young lovers.
Published this year, Prof. Oyer’s book – Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating – promotes the merits of using market economics to locate a mate in cyberspace.
Never put all your eggs in one basket
The cardinal rule of investing – never put all your eggs in one basket – is even espoused by online sites that recognise diversity can improve returns. Digital matchmaker eHarmony increasingly caters for older lovebirds with niche sites, but it recommends that members also list with its traditional site in order to access a larger dating pool.
This is what Prof. Oyer calls ‘choosing a thick market’. In economics, a thick market offers greater supply and demand and thus increased opportunities. Thin markets reduce choice.
Too good to be true
Would-be daters need to beware of ‘cheap talk’ in the same way that investors must look through hype to ascertain true value.
Online dating prospects often gild the lily by posting highly-flattering photographs, overstating wealth and health and understating age.
Such ‘cheap talk’ should be filtered by daters in the same way they would be sceptical of too-good-to-be-true financial opportunities.
Conversely, completely honest is no guarantee you will be taken at face value. ‘Profile inflation’ ensures that people reading your bio assume you are heavier, shorter, older or poorer than you admit.
But there are ways to tweak your appeal in ways that some companies manipulate sentiment. One ploy is signalling, a device used in cheaply priced initial public offerings (IPO) to persuade investors they are getting a bargain.
According to Nobel prize-winning economist Michael Spence, the theory goes that if a party wants to increase its attraction, it will signal its credentials by wearing a cost. Forfeiting an early windfall in the hope that investors will come back for future offerings is one way of planning for better long-term profits.
Likewise, spending up big on a first date suggests you have serious skin in the game and are not just gaming online romance for short-term benefits.
Time in the market
Additionally, online credibility can be ruined for those who are in the market too long. While being unlucky in love might be unavoidable, daters may appear too fussy if their profiles are still active year in, year out.
In business, the same applies. At some point, companies looking at doing deals need to settle. To make a habit of “going fishing” and failing to commit damages reputations.
Whichever way online dating is approached, the market will always make assumptions about candidates. So throw your vanities into a bonfire and borrow from investment principles if you aim to outsmart cupid in the digital dating world.