Ben Berman thinks there's a problem with the way we date. Not in real life—he's happily engaged, thank you very much—but online. He's watched too many friends joylessly swipe through apps, seeing the same profiles over and over, without any luck in finding love. The algorithms that power those apps seem to have problems too, trapping users in a cage of their own preferences. So Berman, a game designer in San Francisco, decided to build his own dating app, sort of.
This article originally appeared on AlterNet. It will only be a matter of time before you encounter some spectacularly offensive and unsolicited people and materials. Shallowness in online dating manifests in different ways, but is mostly about appearance. Fat people are ridiculed all the time. And of course, anytime we talk about appearance, race will eventually come into play. Online dating apps provide fertile ground for these kinds of appearance-based biases to take root.
Mobile dating apps that allow users to filter their searches by race — or rely on algorithms that pair up people of the same race — reinforce racial divisions and biases, according to a new paper by Cornell researchers. Although partner preferences are extremely personal, the authors argue that culture shapes our preferences, and dating apps influence our decisions. Fifteen percent of Americans report using dating sites, and some research estimates that a third of marriages — and 60 percent of same-sex relationships — started online. Tinder and Grindr have tens of millions of users, and Tinder says it has facilitated 20 billion connections since its launch.
Research examining the preferences of Facebook dating app, Are You Interested AYI found black men and women receive fewer responses to their messages. It also found that men from all different races prefer a partner of another race over their own. The study found men respond to women around there times more often than women reply to men's messages and that the women studied were mostly drawn to white men. The data comes from AYI, which claims to be one of the largest Facebook dating apps with over 70 million users and is similar to Tinder.