Almost 500 University students register for Datamatch matchmaking service ahead of Valentine's Day| Feb 11, 2020
“Which building are you?
ARC building — ugly on the outside, OK on the inside
Frist — knows a lot of people but … has no real friends
East Pyne — just think: Timothée Chalamet
Lewis Arts Center — likes Elon Musk
Nassau Hall — loves being the center of attention.”
As of Tuesday evening, over 480 University students answered this and 18 other humorous questions for Datamatch, an annual matchmaking survey administered by students at Harvard College.
Described online as a free “service created for college students by college students to find true love,” the program runs annually during the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, coming up on Friday. Now in its 25th year, Datamatch boasts over 25,000 users from 31 schools across North America.
Over 80 percent of Harvard students typically fill out the survey, which is widely popular on the Cambridge campus. This is Datamatch’s first year at the University. The service operates at every Ivy League institution except for Cornell University.
“After students at each college have filled out these surveys, we run it through our proprietary matchmaking algorithm to give matches to students within each school,” said Teddy Liu, a leader at the organization with the title “Supreme Cupid.” “Then those matches are released on Valentine’s Day.”
On the morning of Feb. 14, each of the University’s participants will receive approximately 10 algorithmically-generated student matches, ranked based on “compatibility.” Though the service is notably romantic in focus, one may select to seek “love,” “friendship,” or “anything, really.”
Users will be shown the name, graduation year, and residential college of their matches. Features like profile pictures, bios, and social media accounts number among the optional add-ons, while an in-website chat tool is intended to facilitate communication.
In addition to official matches, Datamatch enables a “search” feature to which users may opt-in. The tool will allow students to enter the name of a limited number of Datamatch participants and, if they so please, secretly indicate romantic or platonic interest. Datamatch notifies parties if any pairing is mutual.
“Datamatch is definitely kind of more of a satire or a parody of traditional dating,” explained Supreme Cupid Ryan Lee. “This is not your parents’ dating site. The questions are all extremely humorous and a bit ‘meme-y’ and represent the culture of each school.” Both Liu and Lee are senior computer science students at Harvard.
Centrally based at the student-run Harvard Computer Society, Datamatch utilizes volunteers at their partner colleges to author school-specific questions, promote the program on campus, and — in some instances — host social events. Princeton Cupids Ian Kim ’22 and Zeytun West ’22 oversee Datamatch at the University.
“We wanna foster kind of a fun tradition [from] year to year,” Kim said. “Often, people are worried ‘Is Valentine’s Day gonna be the worst time of the year because I’m single?’ This is a very loose … [and] fun thing to do, … kind of toning the Valentine’s Day craze down a little bit.”
Despite its less-than-serious questions, Liu, Lee, and Kim earnestly believe in Datamatch’s ability to foster well-matched couples.
“If you think about it, if someone has a similar sense of humor to you, there is a good chance that you might enjoy spending time with them,” Kim said, “whether it's as a friend or if you have potential to go on a date.”
Datamatch’s algorithm is confidential, but the Supreme Cupids sought to shed light on the methodology of their sorting technique.
“What it boils down to is similarity,” Liu explained. “When we think of similarity in our case, we think of enumerated choices. We don’t think of the words within those choices, we think of them as like enumerations.”
Liu further articulated that filling out surveys in an identical manner does not guarantee a match for any pair.
“[Similar answers] would be a proxy for [matching]. We do lots of other advanced things to ensure fairness criteria, make sure everyone has a match, and we also have things to avoid gamifying the system. That would be an overall general trait, but it’s not the only one,” said Liu.
Lee believes the system may be explained well through metaphor.
“We want to match you with someone who has a similar vibe to you, but at the same time has differences that seem to connect well,” he said. “[It’s] like fitting two puzzle pieces together from the same set: similar, but still ultimately unique and different. We’re trying to figure out what kind of puzzle set you belong to and what's your matching puzzle piece.”
As of 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, the University’s participants included 219 first-years, 131 sophomores, 65 juniors, 47 seniors, and six graduate students. With 100 students, Mathey College boasts the largest plurality of users.
Tiffany Huang ’23 filled out the survey and has been intrigued by the service before even matriculating at the University.
“I first heard about Datamatch when I was in sophomore year [of high school], and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, so I got really really excited when I found out it was coming to Princeton this year. I wanted to give it a shot,” she said.
Emily Schoeman ’22 shares some of Huang’s excitement, but the Brooklyn native isn’t nearly as convinced by the program’s orthodoxy.
“It was really fun … but I’m not quite sure what they were hoping to get out of it. I felt like since all the questions had such funny answers, I felt like I was clicking a little randomly, and … it wasn’t saying anything about my personality or who I should be in a relationship with,” she said.
Though Schoeman intends to check the site on Valentine’s Day, the idea of reaching out to matches gives her pause.
“Right now, it seems like taking that step is kind of scary for either person. Maybe I would respond if someone else messaged me. I just probably wouldn’t message them.”
Lee has heard concerns similar to Schoeman’s before and encourages Datamatch users to take a leap of faith.
“There is a reason why you signed up for Datamatch. You are interested in meeting someone special, potentially, or at least getting to know new people,” he said. “My ask for you is to take a chance … Love is never easy, and love is most fruitful for those who put in the work. At the end of the day, meeting people takes effort, but I think the fruits of the work will be well worth [it]. Just do it … reaching out, messaging, shooting your shot first, it’s totally alright.”
Interested students may fill out the survey online at datamatch.me until Datamatch closes at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 14. The Cupids will post results later that morning.