Dawoon Kang, co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, says “the reason women haven’t been fully excited about using dating services is because there wasn’t one that understood how women want to date.” Sarah Mick, Chief Creative Officer at Bumble, says her app wants to end “digital cat-calling,” and to subtly give women more power in their dating interactions.
In their efforts, both apps employ strategies that a game theorist would approve of.
Nobody is happy, but nobody can do anything about it. But a new generation of dating apps impose limitations on daters that might liberate them.
The executives at the apps themselves tend to see the problem as one of gender dynamics; their innovations are intended to tackle the unhappy experiences that too many women report.
Kang reports that American dating apps traditionally had a ratio of roughly 60% men to 40% women, “which doesn’t sound that extreme, but if you actually take into account activity level – guys are twice as active as women – the gender ratio becomes even more lopsided; in the active user base it’s more like .” This kind of skewed ratio can have huge effects on users’ incentives; as Tim Harford, an economist, has written, even a slight imbalance in a market radically shifts power away from the over-represented group, as they are forced to compete hard or remain single.
One way to view the problem is as a tragedy of the commons, where users acting in their (narrow) self-interest over-exploit a shared resource and therefore harm the common good, ultimately harming themselves.
But that’s when Strayed and Almond brought in Stanford economics professor Paul Oyer, whose 2014 book Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned From Online Dating chronicled his return to the dating scene as a single, 50-year-old man, which he came to understand as being much like the markets he’d spent a career studying.