How an online dating initiative offered Mac students a chance at love. Kind of.

C/O Dan Gold

As Reading Week came to a close, we also experienced everyone’s least favourite holiday: Valentine’s Day. I am just joking, of course. After all, what is not to love about enviously eyeing a happy couple as you munch on your discounted Valentine’s chocolates and revel in your own loneliness?

Despite the seemingly impossible odds, it turns out that love is indeed in the air for both our single and “it’s complicated” McMaster University students after all.

The Aphrodite Project, named after the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, has made its debut to hundreds of hopelessly romantic McMaster students.

This mainly experimental and student-led initiative matches you to an algorithmically perfect soulmate or to a platonic friend if you so wish. This left me thinking about an interesting question regarding this project on our campus: will the Aphrodite Project be successful?

This left me thinking about an interesting question regarding this project on our campus: will the Aphrodite Project be successful?

On one hand, this opportunity seems harmless and too good to pass up, but on the flip side, there is the possibility of facing cold, hard disappointment. Personally, I hold the latter view, given my ever-growing disenchantment with online dating apps despite the current situation of students’ social lives.

The Aphrodite Project at McMaster was doomed to begin with given the uneven ratio of the sexes that have signed up, as well as how it did not play out as planned among other larger universities which even led to students even organizing their “post-Aphrodite project” dating profiles using other platforms.

So far, the student opinion regarding this initiative resembles the time-tested issues that are common with online dating in general. The Aphrodite Project, or otherwise presented at McMaster as “Match at Mac,” claims to use a Nobel Prize-winning algorithm, which happens to be the exact same algorithm already being used in other existing dating platforms such as Tinder: the Gale-Shapley algorithm for predicting stable marriages. 

However, there is a reason why all modern online love stories have not necessarily ended in long-term happiness in real life. The Gale-Shapley algorithm is proven to be heavily biased in favour of one sex over the other with the flip of a couple of variables but traditionally remains male-favoured as originally programmed.

The algorithm envisions a scenario where one sex is “married” to their top choice of partner, whereas that chosen partner is “married” to their last choice, proving its clear bias depending on how the algorithm was initially set up.

While the Aphrodite Project has not shared the specifics of its match-making technology for one to assess the exact impacts on the majority of the dating population, the outcome could not have been optimal at Mac given the noticeably high female participation rate compared to male.

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Students were destined to lose out either way as the variables needed for projects like this were already skewed and do not foster an environment for the algorithm to have worked to its full potential. 

Thus, the clickbait of the Nobel prize-winning algorithm was slightly misleading and perhaps raised the hopes of many a love-lorn Mac student too soon.

I believe a further inherent problem behind such initiatives is that it gives whatever matches were made what seems like an already established connection. That way, participants feel even more disappointed going into interactions with their matches when enthusiasm is not reciprocated.

Regardless of its flaws, the Aphrodite Project provided an opportunity of light-hearted fun and possible love for Mac students stuck at home, which if anything, brought a smile to our faces in these dark times. If you did not find your soulmate through Mac’s Aphrodite Project, fear not, as a world of romance awaits you once our sexy campus is up and running again.

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