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Letter to the Editor:
Not Impressed with eHarmony's Filtering


I had an interesting exchange with Heather of Customer Service. My college background is in social science, so I'm fairly familiar with how to ask questions, convert them to numbers as variables, and find correlations (how things are related). So filling out the questionnaire was, by itself, interesting. It was also frustrating because it did not factor two EXTREMELY important variables: body type and level of activity.

Here is how Heather responded, in part:

> Thanks very much for your email. I understand
> your concerns with the level of physical
> activity between you and your matches. Please
> note that physical characteristics is currently
> not a factor we match on.

> We do use physical appearance as a factor in our
> matching process, but our goal is to balance
> that characteristic with the other 29
> dimensions that determine long-term
> compatibility with your matches. We know that
> physical attraction is important, but our
> studies have shown it to be less important in
> the long run than characteristics such as
> intelligence, conflict resolution and energy
> level.

Blah, blah, blah.

They are simply wrong and I challenge them to show me their methodology and data so I can run the numbers myself.

I say they are wrong on two levels: level of physical activity and physical attraction.

You don't match up a mountain climber with a disabled person who is wheel-chair bound. I'm sure in romance novels it happens all the time. But not in real life. You don't match up biathlon runners with couch potatoes. These people are not compatible in a fundamental way: the desire and/or physical ability to be active in the same way. It's not going to work out and is an important variable to consider.

Next, physical appearance as an attractor is part biological and part sociological. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder-- but only to a point. 50% of our personalities are biologically based. Eyes, teeth, body shape, etc., are all queues built into our biology by nature to assure that we have lots of babies and that they can be provided for. This is fairly well-established, though it's not PC to talk about.

People also learn to be attracted to certain appearances, likely so we all can survive in society. A great deal has been written about this. So society dictates that we prefer a mate in a certain range of normal. At one time it what a white person could not be attracted to a black person, and vice versa. Fortunately that goes away with time. But there are still a few. For instance, a middle-class, white, churchgoer is not likely to date a Goth, complete with tattoos and piercings. Not gonna happen.

Because doesn't factor for these variables, despite what they say (I looked back at the questionnaire and found NOTHING that would indicate physical preference), I question just how successful they are in making matches. It also makes for some very, very awkward exchanges both over their system (the open question phase) and via email, if one should get to that point.

Why should a customer be made to feel awkward because they didn't fully think through their questionnaire? And how come one can't get out of the commitment when it becomes apparent the system cannot match them, even after four months?

Recently I noticed their ads on TV are a bit different. Yes, they still have the attractive couples. But there is suddenly a pattern of showing larger women with tall, thin men. In advertising, no images are put on camera by accident. The images send a subtle message: big girls, we can get you a stud!! In advertising, this is called "The Promise". If you buy "X", you get "Y". If you drink our "beer", you will get the "chicks/studs". If you're chubby and you use our service, we're gonna get you married to a stud, girl!

And have you noticed suddenly how hard it is to cancel the service? Are they having cash flow problems? Are they getting ready to skip?

Time will tell.

This service doesn't work, folks. You'd be better off using the personals ads in the local paper.
~ Robert S.

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