These days, algorithms are in power of everything: they even choose the one you love. Well, only if you decide to find love online. Once you register for online dating website Parship, you’ll find yourself filling out a very detailed questionnaire, constituted by a 136 line long algorithm. This is not just guesswork; Parship based the algorithms on theories presented by sociologist Georg Simmel and psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud.
Would it be fair to say that letting algorithms arrange your love matches is the ultimate consequence of personalized media use?
If so, then that might mean that Caplan and Boyd’s (2016) concerns might be applicable to love arranged by algorithms as well. They question whether the personalization of media use can lead to people only turning to topics that they find of interest, and that this may lead to cultural elites that produce a rejection of universality and diversity. We can argue that a partner arranged for us by algorithms is most likely to be very similar to ourselves in terms of social class and background. If everyone would partner up with someone very similar, this would definitely produce a decrease of diversity, and therefore maybe a rejection of universality.
Luckily we can still call into question whether these matches arranged by algorithms really work. Psychologist Eli Finkel states that dating websites make false claims, based on weak scientific theories. Although obviously, dating websites can be useful, if only it were because everyone in their databases is looking for a relationship. But to this day there still has not been any convincing peer reviews.
But it might be yet to come according to Eli Finkel: technologies are constantly improving to pick up information that cannot be detected by self-reporting tools. So who knows, in the future, we won’t leave love to chance.
Caplan, R., & Boyd, D. (2016). Who Controls the Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms? Data&Society, 1-19.
Tielbeke, J. (2017) Uitgehuwlijkt door een algoritme. De Groene Amsterdammer, 141 (28-29).