The Race Factor: Are You Out-Filtering Good Prospects Online?

Online dating has allowed millions to make connections with people they may have otherwise never met. There’s a website for virtually every interest and preference so dating can be likened to shopping at the largest online matchmaking superstore. Sometimes the choices are much too many, so sites have addressed these challenges with filter systems based on racial preferences, age, and interests. But often those filters work more like a hatchet than a scalpel, and eliminate exposure to viable love matches.

Filtered Biases

Conscious and unconscious racial biases come strongly into in online dating, and it was most widely reported by OKCupid that black women are the least likely to be contacted online, by all races, even their own. “Men don’t write black women back. Or rather, they write them back far less often than they should. Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every race—including other blacks—singles them out for the cold shoulder,” said the report, published in 2009.

Are the lack of responses due to undesirability, or deeply ingrained stereotypes? Kia Richards, an African American woman in her 20’s conducted an informal experiment in which she changed her online racial profile from “African American” and checked all races, and saw some dramatic results. “When I logged on, there were 61 visitors to my profile and 27 unread messages. The results were quite astonishing. Adding White, Asian, and Other to my profile should not have made much of a significant difference. After all I look like a normal Black woman. I recognize that “normal” is such a subjective word but if someone saw me walking down the street, they would not mistake my racial identity as anything other than Black.”

So why the dramatic change in interest from two or three notifications to 27 just by checking a few extra boxes? “The filtration process is based on people knowing what they want. But most people don’t know what they want until it’s in front of them, and at that point it’s based on far less superficial factors,” says Matthew Hussey, relationships expert and co-star of NBC’s “Ready For Love,” and author of the New York Times best seller, Get the Guy. “Attraction is emotional, not logical. Too often in the filtration process logical factors get in the way of what could be an incredible emotional connection.”

Incidentally, Matthew made a video on online dating and addressed this subject directly. He gets to the meat of it around 2:25:

What say you?

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