I know some people who have a fondness for Excel spreadsheets and others who often feel confounded when it comes to romance. There is some overlap between the two, but I’d never met anyone who tried to use an Excel chart to improve their love life — until I met Carin Fishel, 35, a nice Jewish girl from Seattle.
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Fishel had searched for love for years without finding Mr. Right. After experiencing more than her fill of disappointments, one fine day she decided to collect data on her dates. “I studied art in college and I’m not really like a numbers person,” she told me via Skype while on vacation in Japan. “The company I work for they do data visualization I’m pretty analytical, and I thought, you know, maybe I should try this and see if it will help me in some way. There’s so many interesting things I can track, and it doesn’t feel like [dating] is working so maybe I can learn something from it. So, I thought, if I do this then it will give me something else to focus on, and if I meet somebody that’s great but if I don’t... then I won’t be so consumed by it.”
She inputted data from her dates over the previous year and then added data for the dates she had between the summer of 2015 and summer of 2016. It all went into the huge Excel chart she created: age; hometown; height (short/average/tall); how they met; how many dates they went on; was there sex/making out/a kiss; does he want kids; how many messages were exchanged prior to the date; does he have tattoos; and much, much more. Each date was given a rating on a scale of 1 to 5: From “no interest” to “can’t get him out of my head.” When the tally reached 52 guys and 90 dates, she created a PowerPoint presentation that she presented at the Eyeo Festival, a conference on the confluence of art, interaction and information.
In analyzing the data, Fishel found she had spent 334.5 hours on just the dates alone. The largest group of guys (16) came through the dating sites OKCupid and Match.com, where users fill out very detailed profiles, but all of them scored a disappointing “1.” Dates that came from Tinder, where users reveal much less about themselves, produced better scores, leading Fishel to conclude that having more information beforehand tended to decrease the amount of attraction she felt. “Because of all that information, I create a picture in my head of the person I think I’m going to meet, and then I meet them — and it’s never that person that I imagined,” she told the audience at Eyeo.
However, her analysis of the data did produce some encouraging findings. “After every date, I rated every date as fun, okay or boring,” she says. “I rated over 15 percent of my dates as fun, so I must not hate doing it as much as I think I do.”
Another nice finding: “I’m not getting dumped all the time.” Then she showed the audience at the conference a graph she made that proved her wrong: Only 19 percent of the time, it was the guy who broke it off. She initiated the breakup in 30 percent of the cases, and 51 percent of the time, neither one had cared enough to make a point of ending it.
What do you think of that — that it’s become acceptable to not even break up sometimes?
“I think that if you go on one date, you go out with somebody for an hour, you don’t have to be like, ‘you were nice but I don’t want to see you again.’ It doesn’t seem necessary.”
My sister once told me, "Call them. Call the woman after the date, no matter what. It’s your job to do that."
“I do think if somebody contacts you and asks you out, even if it’s just after one date, you should respond yes or no. You shouldn’t just ignore them... I think that ‘ghosting’ [cutting off contact vanishing] is awful.”
Fishel's experience on the dating battlefield has led her to some gloomy conclusions about the balance of dating powers. “It’s still very old fashioned, like the man drives everything. I can ask somebody out, but they’re going to respect me less if I do. I still do it, but like, you know, I have friends who say I should play hard-to-get — ‘they’ll like you more that way.’ If you ask them out they’re going to have the upper hand and they won’t like you as much.”
“Unfortunately it feels to me like the man has most of the power. Men say the woman has all the power and the man has to do all the hard work, but at least they can do it. At least it’s more expected of them to put that extra leg work, but whereas if a woman does it, it’s like she’s trying too hard, she’s too desperate, but that sucks,” she says.
Like nearly everyone who writes about and is written about on the Internet (aside from some adorable kittens and panda bears), Fishel has had to contend with an onslaught of nasty commenters. A piece about her on Vice.com drew comments calling her a “slut” who exploited her dates for her own ulterior motives. She categorically rejects such criticism: “My goal was to get to know these guys, and Excel was just a part of that.”
But don’t you think it influenced the date in some way, knowing that it would ultimately end up in your Excel chart?
“I didn’t know that that was gonna happen. But, it did affect the results a little bit because it makes it more scientific,” she acknowledges, adding that this was one reason — though not the main one — she brought the project to an end after two years. The main reason, she says, was that all of her various data analyses, despite pointing to certain trends (a preference for East Coast guys’ senses of humor), did not yield a clear profile of the man of her dreams.
This was not the case for Amy Webb, a Jewish author from Philadelphia who created an algorithm to rank prospective romantic partners and used 10 online profiles that she created to systematically analyze what men want. This combination of tools ultimately led her to her prince (“He looks and sounds just like what I wanted”) who got down on one knee and proposed to her in Petra, Jordan, and to a daughter whom they named — what else? — Petra. Further inevitable results of Webb’s project: a book and a popular TED talk (“How I Hacked Online Dating”). Fishel didn’t achieve such a fairy tale ending, but she hasn’t lost hope.
You know we can’t wrap this up without touching on the Jewish angle. What does your mother think of all this?
“My mom loves it. I think she thought it was great. My parents thought it was really interesting My parents are always proud of everything I do. I think at first they were like, 'Oh, you should be with someone Jewish,' but I think at this point they just want me to be happy.”