February 14, 2006

Saint Valentine

Filed under: culture — ted @ 7:47 pm

So yes, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. As far as I see it, there are only two good ways to spend Valentine’s Day:

  1. Use it as an excuse to love your lover just a little bit more than you usually do.
  2. Mock the entire thing.

A few very poor ways to spend the day include: buying something, moping about something, demanding something, or placing undue expectations upon someone.

And if you’re going to give Valentines, please do so with at least some degree of irony. Here’s my contribution:

(There are more of these here, and they’re all incredible.)

But seriously, there is a superb article in the new Atlantic, which unfortunately is only available to subscribers (for those fortunate few, here’s the article online.) The cover features a close up of that epic Robert Doisneau photo, and the feature article is about online dating and the science behind it. The question posed is: “In the subjective realm of love, can cold, hard science help?”

As much as I dislike the thought, it seems the answer – to an extent – is “yes.” These folks (eHarmony.com, Chemistry.com, and PerfectMatch.com are all given extensive coverage) are really serious about what they do, and the have lots of stats to prove their worth:

“We’re using science in an area most people think of as inherently unscientific,” Gonzaga [from eHarmony] said. So far, the data are promising: a recent Harris Interactive poll found that between September of 2004 and September of 2005, eHarmony facilitated the marriages of more than 33,000 members—an average of forty-six marriages a day. And a 2004 in-house study of nearly 300 married couples showed that people who met through eHarmony report more marital satisfaction than those who met by other means. The company is now replicating that study in a larger sample.

Well, isn’t that something. But of course, the other folks think their formulas are better, and they’re certainly different – and it all makes for fascinating reading. The wisest words are spoken by Dr. Pepper Schwartz of PerfectMatch.com:

The advantage to scientific matching, she says, isn’t to come up with some foolproof formula for romantic connection. Instead, the science serves as a reality check, as a way of not letting that initial rush of attraction cloud your judgment when it comes to compatibility.

Now that doesn’t sound so bad. Unless, of course, you’re not into love–then I would recommend these folks.


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