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by Polly Loughlin

www dot couples

In Chinese mythology, Yue Lao, the old man under the moon would nocturnally tie destined couples together with a silk red cord, “the red thread of destiny”. Nowadays it’s less of a thread than a web or net, the world wide web or Internet to be precise.

The role of determinism in romance is being limited. More and more people are looking to click, tap and swipe their way to love. Initially the approach employed by online matchmakers was scientific, algorithm driven, promising a true soul mate.

Launched in 2004 Okcupid’s unique methodology to matchmaking is to ask users questions, then asks them to rate the importance of the question to them, and asks for the desired answer from their ideal partner’s answer too. These count for data points, and through number crunching, a match is made. A question like, “how messy are you?” is asked of a user, who will answer, then give the preferred answer for their potential soul mate before ranking how important is it to them.

The Match.com formula for success is down to an algorithm, codenamed “Synapse”, or the “magic sauce” to industry insiders. The wife of Gary Kremen, founder of Match.com left him for a man she met on the site. It was hard, he admitted, but proof it worked.

In contrast to the long term orientated sites like Match and OKcupid are the quick, swipe apps favoured by the young, where proximity and ‘fuckability’ play a more decisive role than politics and interests.

The first of the ‘instant gratification’ apps is exclusively for gay men, Grindr. Launched in 2009, it is the first app with the easy swipe model. Tinder, which accommodates all sexualities soon followed, after enjoying success on college campuses. Once two people have swiped right, the modern day fairytale equivalent of simultaneously finding a glass slipper, a dialogue can begin.

At first it seemed purely a hook up app, a vehicle to Netflix and Chill or Amazon and Anal or Hulu and Handjob or whatever, it is now considered a serious platform for blossoming relationships. Olympic gold medalist Amy Williams married soldier Craig Ham just 18 months after meeting on dating app Tinder. The stigma is diminishing, apps as a means to love are now seen as utilitarian and practical.

Tinder has enjoyed the most popularity and mainstream status, but many apps have capitalised on the swipe model but with subtle niches or twists. There’s ‘High There’, exclusively for cannabis smokers, it was set up in Colorado for states in the US where marijuana is legal. “Tastebuds” which bonds prospective lovers over their music taste. Luxy is another, branded by CNN as “Tinder for snobs” or officially “Tinder without the riff-raff” in the words of creators. Users must verify their large income before they are allowed to join. “I hope everyone involved with this app loses all their money in a Ponzi scheme!” one embittered reviewer wrote.

Jess and Harley were at the same university in London, she was on a studying abroad visa from Texas. They began a conversation on the Thursday, had their first date on the Friday, their second on the Saturday and within the week they had passed their first Tinder relationship milestone, deleting their profiles from the app.

After a wedding in the Deep South (Southern America) three months of marital bliss ensued followed by lots of sex before in his own words; “everything turned to shit”. They began arguing constantly and she started recording their squabbles on her phone, which caused them to argue more.

Their initial meeting, marriage and separation happened in the rapid space of less than one year, a damning indication of how digital love has become a byproduct of accelerated culture.

Research shows that couples who meet online get married more quickly [1] and 28 percent of couples who meet online divorce [2]. Like the fabled fly that lives for 24 hours, relationships can flourish, thrive and decay with newfound rapidity.