What's The Biggest Challenge Men Face On Dating Apps?: A Q&A With Aviv Goldgeier, Junior Growth Engineer
Ever wonder why certain people show up in your Hinge feed? You can thank the geniuses on the Hinge Engineering Team — including Aviv Goldgeier, a Junior Growth Engineer. Around here, we think of him as part-time data brainiac; full-time fried chicken enthusiast.
Today on Inside Hinge I’m talking to Aviv about a question we get a lot: what challenges, specifically, men face on dating apps.
Q. There is so much that goes into the “behind-the-scenes” part of a dating app — namely, engineering. Can you describe your day-today?
A. As a Junior Growth Engineer, I’m responsible for a lot of engineering that isn’t explicitly app-related. I spend a lot of the time stewarding data, making sure that it gets from point A to point B happy and in one piece. For example, if you open your email to find a picture of a sexy Hinge recommendation staring at you, I’m the one that dispatched him or her there.
The rest of my time is spent playing around in our data warehouse, digging for interesting stories about modern dating, like what foods to talk about to guarantee a date (it’s fried chicken), or how long to wait before double texting (it’s about the length of time it takes to brine a chicken). Basically, all those lingering questions our users have about dating.
I’m one of the few people in the world who has the access and skills to actually answer them, and I think that’s pretty neat.
Q. There is a lot of anecdotal information out there about the different challenges each gender faces on dating apps, but you’re in a position to provide a data-based answer to this question. So: what is the biggest challenge men face on dating apps?
A. I’d say that the biggest dating challenge men face on apps is, as it is in real life, the burden to initiate. On Hinge, men send a first like more than three times as often as women. But more than that, when women do initiate, they tend to do so on a smaller segment of the male population. For example, while about half of all likes sent to women go to about 25 percent of women, half of all likes sent to men go to a much smaller segment – about 15 percent.
In Dataclysm, the most classic book on this kind of stuff, Christian Rudder talks about how certain populations get exponentially more attention by likening attractiveness to earthquakes. He places beauty on the Richter scale: “In terms of its effect, there is little noticeable difference between, say, a 1.0 and 2.0–these cause tremors that vary only in degree of imperceptibility. But at the high end, a small difference has a cataclysmic impact. A 9.0 is intense, but a 10.0 can rupture the world. Or launch a thousand ships.”
But while the mythological ship-launcher, Helen, was a woman, it turns out that it’s actually the most attractive men who soak up the most disproportionate amount of their gender’s affection. To drive this Trojan war analogy into the ground, consider the leads in the 2004 movie Troy – which actor was more widely desired at the time? The one who played Helen (Diane Kruger), or the one who played Achilles (Brad Pitt)?
So that’s the biggest problem men face on dating apps – the Brad Pitts of the world take the lion’s share of the likes from an already like-deficient sex.
Q. How does this inequality compare to the inequality women face on dating apps? Is there an analogy you can use to better explain it?
A. I recently saw a post on Medium that considered incoming likes as a sort of currency. Every nation in the world has a currency, but that currency is not equally distributed amongst the citizens of every country. These economic inequalities are described using what is called the Gini index.
In our context, the closer the Gini index is to 0, the more equally likes are distributed across all of our users; a higher Gini index rating means more likes are being concentrated into fewer recipients.
The guy that wrote that post only had a couple dozen data points, but since I have access to many orders of magnitude more, reading his write-up made me curious as to what would happen if I reproduced his work using our data.
It turns out that, as it pertains to incoming likes, straight females on Hinge show a Gini index of 0.376, and for straight males it’s 0.542. On a list of 149 countries’ Gini indices provided by the CIA World Factbook, this would place the female dating economy as 75th most unequal (average — think Western Europe) and the male dating economy as the 8th most unequal (kleptocracy, apartheid, perpetual civil war — think South Africa).
Q. So interesting, and great analogy! Is this inequality present across the board, or are there certain groups or segments of people who behave differently?
A. The good news is that the situation isn’t universally bleak. One trend we see, for example, is that the two genders tend to act more equitably the younger they are. While there are 50 percent more likes sent by straight men under 20 than straight women under 20, that ratio gets more and more skewed as people get older. In the 55-59 demographic there are 800 percent more likes sent by men than women.
For me, this paints an optimistic picture for a future in which women feel more empowered to initiate.
Q. So, what can men do to give them a greater chance at overcoming this obstacle?
A. Somewhat circularly, my recommendation is to encourage men to initiate more. But my reasoning isn’t quite straightforward, and this advice works uniquely well on Hinge.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote that “you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” A lot of Carnegie’s thought was based on intuition and anecdotes, but at Hinge, we can analyze millions of interactions to see how right he really is.
Unlike other dating apps, which may obscure who likes you behind a paywall or a double-opt-in feature, Hinge allows someone to see that you’ve liked them. We find that it makes a huge difference – on average, people are twice as likely to like someone back as they are to like someone in the first place. In other words, if a woman knows a man is interested, she is twice as likely to reciprocate that interest.
Because Hinge is the only major dating app that offers this feature for free, men on other dating apps really do have a harder time.
Q. How does that help the inequality problem, specifically?
A. When we look at the rate of men forming connections – rather than the rate that they are sent initial likes, as we did before – we find that index of inequality greatly decreases.
With straight men on Hinge, the Gini index of connections comes down to 0.324, or approximately the UK — a huge improvement.
As an aside, this movement toward equitability when dealing with connections exists with straight women too, so much so that the Gini index becomes meaningless. The most attractive women on Hinge do not actually form the most connections. In fact, straight women who receive incoming likes at around the 80th percentile have the most connections with men, about 27 percent more than our most-liked women.
Q. Given your knowledge of dating apps, what are you most looking forward to in this space?
A. I’m personally looking forward to the day when anybody from any gender feels comfortable taking charge and initiating, but until then, Hinge helps men with their biggest issue in online dating – only here does acting first truly pay off.
Q. Final question, and the one everyone wants to know the answer to: do you feel you have a “leg up” on other men because you have access to that data, and insight into how people behave on dating apps?
A. To a certain extent – the truth is, part of the reason I find this job so interesting is because I’m so terrible myself at online dating. Maybe having this job brings me closer to “normal people” level.
Have a question or comment for Aviv or the Hinge Engineering Team? Leave a comment below.