Why SOD (swipe/online dating) doesn’t work for most people.

Jeff Allen
Apr 5 · 10 min read

OK, so what I want us to look at here is how the dynamics of the dating marketplace function on SOD (swipe/online dating), and why those dynamics mean that for most of us, apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and the rest don’t work very well.

(If you want to listen to the podcast, or watch on YouTube, click the links!)

On Tinder alone, consider this: on average, men swipe right on 46% of potential matches; women swipe right on 14%. It’s reasonable to assume that there’s a similar dynamic playing out on other platforms, so what does this mean?

It means that in general, women are going to match far more often than men, which over time means that women are in a state of abundance and men are in a state of scarcity — and this is especially true when comparing those at equal levels of attractiveness. Think of it this way: a woman who’s say, a seven on looks, is going to have far more options than a man who’s a seven (no, I don’t think we should apply numbers to someone’s attractiveness, but there’s no other way to make the point objectively).

Now let’s think about basic human psychology. What happens when we have more than enough of something?

A: We become more selective and more capricious.

So over time, women on SOD develop increasingly higher and higher standards when it comes to who they’ll swipe right on, becoming ever more cat-like and entitled.

One thing to keep in mind as we go forward: more is not necessarily better. In fact, statistically it’s worse. There’s an oft cited supermarket study involving jam which I won’t get into here, but the TL;DR is that the more choices people have, the worse choices people make — if any choice at all.

On the other hand, what happens when we’re in a state of scarcity?

A: We become opportunistic and aggressive. In some cases, even desperate. To go back to the jam analogy — if I offer you only one brand of jam, but you have nothing else to spread on your bread, you’re probably going to eat that jam even if it’s not terribly tasty because it’s better than nothing.

So men on SOD — even reasonably good looking men — will over time develop lower and lower standards, swiping with abandon, desperate to get a match. As an anecdotal point my male friends who are still on the apps have all told me that after a certain amount of time they start lowering their standards in order to get more matches. I can say that when I was using the apps I did the exact same thing. Think about that ladies — do you really want to be the girl who got swiped on because the guy gritted his teeth and was like: “I guess?”

OK, more statistics: when polled on the attractiveness of the opposite sex and shown pictures, Women rated 80% of men (the 80:20 rule am I right?) as worse looking than medium and this block of guys only receives replies to messages less than 30% of the time. On the flip side, men rated women as worse looking than medium only 50% of the time, and this block of women received replies to messages 40% of the time.

The typical thing we think when it comes to dating and attraction is that men are pickier and more shallow than women, but actually the opposite is true: woman are far more picky and shallow than men. I mean, that number is fucking astonishing — 80% of men are worse than medium looking? Really? If you’re a dude I don’t know why you need any other reason than that to get off the apps.

Also, because we are exposed to far more options on SOD than we are IRL, people develop a pickiness on SOD that’s completely unreasonable when it comes to actual face-to-face attraction. That’s something everyone should keep in mind: dating and relationships are things that happen IRL — like, if we agree to get some drinks, there’s no hiding behind a screen anymore. It’s not something you can fake, and that’s the primary reason why SOD doesn’t work: because it sets up a hierarchy where people have expectations that can’t be lived up to in person.

Does this mean women are on top when it comes to the SOD hierarchy? Ironically, no — but part of that’s because the very best looking women aren’t on SOD — super models, actresses, etc. frankly have far better options available to them.

Anyway, when we look at who’s on top of the pyramid as it presently plays out, it’s that 5% of the best looking guys, but the thing is, they also have to have good pictures and be smart enough to write a decent bio. This probably boils it down to around 2% or less of the overall male population.

This brings us to the hierarchy…

OK, the guys on top are what we’ll call Chads. Almost every girl swipes right on him (because wtf not), but ladies, if you match with a Chad and he’s not exactly getting back to you real quick — or ever — understand: that’s because he’s got two to three different girls lined up every single week. If you happened to read The Dating Apocalypse, the journalist is almost exclusively interviewing Chad’s — one of the reasons I found the article to be highly biased and not ultimately representative of what’s truly going on in the world of SOD. But I digress…

What’s somewhat hilarious is that women often complain about Chad not being serious or settling down or being a “fuckboi”, but here’s the thing: why would he settle down and get married? Chad can literally swipe on any woman he wants and go on a date with her, and because he’s Chad and really, really good looking, she’s probably going to sleep with him pretty quickly too. So no, he’s not settling down anytime soon.

The next group on the hierarchy are the top 10% of best looking women — we’ll call them Stephanie’s — and yes, the names I’m using correlate to mostly white people in the US, but they’re really just an avatar/symbol: if you want to make up different names, go right ahead.

Anyway, Stephanie is super hot and has never really wanted for male attention. In the world of SOD, she’ll match with basically any guy she swipes on, which is why she only swipes on Chad’s with any regularity. Some Stephanie’s want BFs, and if so, they can probably have them — just likely not with Chad; it’ll usually be some other guy she met IRL or through her social circle.

Why?

Because the guys in the group below — the Jake’s — as I call them, aren’t Chad. They’re real good looking, the top 5–10% in terms of looks, but to Stephanie Jake’s are a dime a dozen on SOD, so if she’s with one, they probably met some other way.

The Jake’s have a bit of a conundrum, and this is true of all men on the apps with the exception of Chad. You see, Jake knows he’s real good looking, but on SOD, it’s rare he matches with his equivalent, Stephanie, and what’s really odd is that he only sometimes matches with Heather.

Heather (the woman who’s in the next top 30%) is just constantly disappointed. You see, she matches with Jake’s and Chad’s on a regular basis, goes on dates with them, etc., but none of them seem to stick around.

We know why Chad’s never going to settle down, but the reason Jake doesn’t generally have long term relationships with Heather is that deep down he knows he can do better, and he’s loath to settle. Remember, marriage is forever — at least supposedly — and when a man is staring that down one of the thing he thinks about is, “can I be attracted to this woman… forever?” So when Jake matches with a Heather (and especially a Becca) it’s often destined for failure.

This brings us to the Ian’s — like Heather, they’re in that next 30% of so of dudes in terms of attractiveness, but unlike Heather, they rarely match with any woman who’s moderately attractive. Keep in mind, women will only rate the top 5% of Ian’s as better looking than medium (recall that women find 80% of all men to be sub par). Long story short: Heather won’t swipe on Ian’s because she can match with Chad’s and Jake’s.

So basically, on SOD, Ian’s going to match with women who are at best, average looking — despite the fact that some Ian’s a reasonably attractive man. Moreover, it will be common for Ian to have very few matches at all, because there are enough Jake’s and Chad’s out there that in comparison, Ian looks like a day old donut. On the rare occasion Ian actually does match with a Heather, he’ll probably fall in love and try to marry her: my guess is that most SOD romantic successes are Ian’s and Heather’s, because Ian feels like he’s doing better than he’s used to, and Heather realizes — once she gets to know him — that Ian’s plenty attractive, and unlike Jake, he’ll stick around.

This brings us to Becca, who like Ian also only rarely matches, but experiences tons of flaking and ghosting and all other kinds of bad behavior, because it’s often a mistake, and also because she’s still aiming high and swiping on guys she has no real business matching with in the first place — why kids? Because guys these days are thirsty AF.

On the rare occasion Heather does go on a date, the guy is probably somewhat disappointed because her pictures are a little catfishy and then it goes downhill from there.

Notice that the general dynamic of SOD is for women to match with men in the next category up. Obviously it’s not so cut and dry as what I laid out. Love is messy — every part of it — and SOD is no exception. But this is largely why it doesn’t work very well. While the guys are often OK going on a date with a woman and hooking up, he’s not going to stick around, because the reality is that he’s probably done better with a woman he met some other way in the past — say in high school or college — or he’s improved his position in society in some way and is aware that his value in the dating market is higher than the matches he gets on Bumble.

Whether you want to call this Jake’s Conundrum or Heather’s Bane, it’s a very real phenomenon, and before you jump to the conclusion I’m being shallow and that if Jake just gave Heather a chance it might work, isn’t that also true of Stephanie with Jake, or Heather and Ian? It is. So the truth is everyone’s being shallow — that’s the nature of the platform — and yes, despite the stereotype, women are actually far more shallow than men.

I’ll repeat here what I said earlier: SOD sets up a dynamic that can’t be lived up to in real life.

If it makes you a little sick to think how shallow people are when it comes to the dating market, understand that these platforms put shallowness on steroids. People are exposed to far more human beings on these apps in a month than they could realistically meet in several years. And in that sense we’re all cheaper. Less valuable. More like a commodity to be consumed than a human being whose worth more than their physical appearance.

IRL, all of this goes out the window.

To begin with, because we aren’t exposed to hundreds and hundreds of faces, we become less picky and we come to appreciate things about people that don’t have to do directly with their looks. Additionally, someone who’s not on the apps is going to be far less likely to flake on a date or break up with someone for capricious reasons, because they can’t afford to throw people away so quickly.

So unless you’re having great success on SOD and meeting people you’re genuinely attracted to and interested in — and who are genuinely attracted to and interested in you — get out of there.

This is especially true for guys: seriously dudes, get out of there. Go on — git! If you learn to talk to and meet women IRL, it is so, so much better. Remember, in terms of pure looks, which is how these apps function, 80% of us are dead right off the bat.

When I was on the apps, I was bitching about dating to my friends constantly. Now, they ask me how many dates I’ve gone on in the last week.

For the ladies, SOD probably isn’t quite as bad, but keep in mind that over time it’s going to increase your expectations and pickiness, and, women are already naturally inclined to have high expectations and be quite picky as it is (statistical truth — don’t get mad at me).

So in some ways, getting on Tinder for women is a recipe for being chronically disappointed.

Understand too, that on SOD the top 78% of women are competing for that top 20% of men — and that means you’re probably either matching with a guy who has TONS of women after him and competing for his attention OR who rarely matches and is the super thirsty type who’s going to text you 12 times a day and be so needy that you’ll eventually get tired of him and ditch out. At least IRL, you have some sort of other connection, whether you met the guy through a work event or on vacation or at the coffee shop or even out at a restaurant, bar, or club.

Last point: almost no one will follow this advice.

Because it’s harder to meet people IRL. As I mentioned, I’ve gotten to the point where I have no issue whatsoever talking to attractive women I meet in day to day life, but to do so I have to get out of the house and put myself in situations where I’m out and about.

Dating IRL is way better in the long run, but not because it’s easy.

And that’s exactly what the CEO’s of these apps are counting on.

Jeff Allen

Written by

Human. Existentialist. Author. Storyteller. Teacher. Blogging at Medium & ChuckingRocks.com: leading the IRL revolution. I see the world as it is… and will be.