Love, Heartbreak

Ashley Madison Isn't The Only Dating Site Using Fake Profiles

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dating sites using fake profiles

People everywhere are combing through the Ashley Madison data looking for names they know. But the identity of celebrity cheaters (or your neighbor down the street) isn't the only thing being found. It turns out that of the dating sites using fake profiles, Ashley Madison is a big culprit.

It has been reported that thousands and thousands of fake women's profiles filled the Ashley Madison subscriber database. In a Washington Post article, industry insider David Evans revealed, "Ashley Madison has paid people to write profiles, and they’ve allowed fake profiles to proliferate on their site."  

I can vouch for that, as I was on the site three years ago as part of an undercover investigation into the real-world reasons why women cheat, and it took a tremendous amount of outreach to connect with real women. Six weeks of looking and waiting resulted in 33 chat sessions and only three "dates" — and I live in a major metropolitan area — so I'm not surprised at the fakery.

But Ashley Madison dishing out fake people and profiles isn't what people should find alarming. After all, fake profiles are business-as-usual for online dating sites and businesses, in general.

And Ashley Madison, at its core, is nothing more than an online dating site. You fill out a profile, upload a few pictures, and get matched up with other like-minded people looking to connect. Companies tend to base online dating profiles on questionnaires of varying lengths, but they all focus on looking to connect people based on likes, dislikes, behaviors, and personal interests. The technology and matching algorithm behind these online sites supposedly does the hard work of analyzing profiles and matching people with commonalities.

However, that's NOT the way it really works. Because the truth is, these sites and businesses aren't motivated to match anyone. Why? Because, if they actually match you (as their clever ads claim they can), you'll meet someone and stop dating — meaning you will stop paying for, and using, their services. And that's not just bad for their business. It would be downright tragic (for them) as it would put them out of business!

Still not convinced? Let's put some math to these claims.

The online and mobile dating industry generates over $2 billion of revenue yearly. Monthly subscriptions account for a great deal of the revenue generated. 

The typical customer using and paying for an online dating site spends an average of $20/mo for those services or $240/year. However, were those monthly subscribers to find love quickly — as these dating sites promise to deliver, thanks to their algorithms and science (as previously mentioned) — they won't stay subscribed to the site very long. Instead, they'll find love and no longer continue dating and there goes the dating sites' monthly subscription fees out the window.

Think about it: if everyone fills out a multi-question compatibility survey (upwards of 200 questions in some cases), chances are decent that at least some commonalities exist between nearly everyone. Hell, I can sit down with two people and ask them 20 questions that determine whether they have anything in common.

However, if the science and algorithms these sites tout are so good at matching people, why would anyone have to spend $240 every year to find someone with whom they "click?" The answer is simple: The business of online dating is just that: business, NOT love.

To validate my hypothesis, I connected with a senior consulting programmer who assisted in creating the "compatibility algorithms" at a number of online dating sites.

According to my source, it costs the average dating site approximately $120 to generate a new customer. In the online subscription services market, they refer to this as "Cost of User Acquisition"; it includes the fees associated with advertising, promotion, sales bonuses, transaction fees, and more. The thing is: if the monthly fee is only $20 a month, the dating site needs to keep customers using their services (meaning: unmatched and looking for love) for at least six months, just to break even.

To show a profit, they need to keep customers unmatched even longer. According to the programmer, this is how it's done:

"When a new subscriber completes their online questionnaire and profile, the site's technology matches them up with compatible potentials, and the subscriber is shown a selection of matched profiles. However, although the algorithm is capable of matching based on compatibility, only one of the profiles shown is actually a match based on their algorithm; the others are either random profiles of other users or fake profiles entirely.

If the subscriber doesn't happen to click on the profile generated from the algorithm and instead selects one of the other randomly generated profiles, the algorithm shuts off for the next four to five months in an effort to recoup the cost of acquiring that subscriber. It's been done like this for years, and is the way the business works."

Of course, this is the way it works! Truthfully, the only reason Ashley Madison is under fire for being one of the dating sites using fake profiles (aside from their position on fidelity in marriage) is because people hacked into their customer database and are combing through their user profiles. I'd love to see what would happen if some of the mainstream dating sites had their user profile data looked over with a microscope the way Ashley Madison's profile data is currently being scrutinized. I'm certain fake profiles would surface on almost all of them. 

Sure, there have are instances of people meeting successfully on an online dating site and falling madly in love. But those cases are seemingly the exception, not the norm. And now we know why.

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