The Statistics of Shidduchim - A Case Study In Futility

One man among a thousand I found,
but a woman among all these I have not found. (Kohelet 7:28)

 

There was a time on this website I used to write about my dating life, which as it turns out I haven't really done since 2006. I think I've avoided doing so for a number of reasons, the main ones being my being in a long-term relationship (since ended) and now a relatively public figure as a pulpit rabbi. However, in two days time I will taking a significant step in the dating process by leaving the popular dating site Saw You At Sinai1 (SYAS) as a paying customer.

For those unfamiliar, SYAS is essentially an online implementation of the blind shidduch / matchmaking dating system. Users create profiles, but instead of searching for other singles users choose matchmakers who do the searching and suggesting for them. Some prefer this method to avoid being contacted directly by creeps, having a reliable person vet out the weirdos, or less cynically prefer to have a mutual acquaintance look out for the interests of both parties. The obvious limitation is that a user's options are entirely dependant on the judgement of the matchmaker.

As of this posting, SYAS boasts 595 matches made and there are of course hundreds if not thousands of Jewish couples who continue to meet through the shidduch system. However, despite empty platitudes of encouragement, it is obvious that this system does not work for everyone, and I would place myself in this category. Thanks to the records of my SYAS account, I will prove mathematically just how ineffective and futile blind shidduch dating can be.

In the SYAS system, a matchmaker suggests a match which is then sent to either the man first, the women first, or both simultaneously (to avoid deadlocks the women make this decision in their preferences). Once a match is sent either party then "approves" or "declines" a match accordingly. If both parties approve, contact information is released and it is expected that they'll call and arrange a date. Simple enough.

Now let's start with my numbers. The first recorded match I have is in 2004 at which point I was still living in Chicago. That gives us about 7 years to work with, minus 2.5 years during which time I suspended my account while in a serious relationship. Here are the stats:

  • 711 suggested matches
  • 152 of which I accepted
  • Yielding 28 first dates
  • And zero (0) meaningful serious relationships

Breaking down these numbers, I approved approximately 21.37% of all suggestions and of those women whom I approved only 18.24% reciprocated. Out of all 711 total suggestions, only 3.93% resulted in an actual first date. As pathetic as these numbers are, they don't even tell the full story. In the event a woman chose to receive the suggestion first, it would not necessarily appear in my list and thus I could be under counting just now many times I've been declined.

One could look at these numbers and say that I'm too selective even though my percentage of approving women at 21.37% is greater than the 18.24% reciprocity. From my experience, here are the main reasons why I declined matches:

  • Already Friends / Dated - I don't have an inherent objection to dating people I already know, but I can tell if I'm not interested. If I've already dated someone, no point in trying again unless there's a good reason. On the plus side, it does give me a sense if the matchmaker is on the right track.
  •  

  • Too Far / Distance - I've never done well with long distance relationships, and since becoming a rabbi I have neither the time nor money to travel. Despite saying this explicitly in my profile I've gotten many suggestions for people who live outside of my stated geographic range. (The most inexplicable one was London). A bad sign since it clearly indicates the matchmaker ignored what I had to say.
  •  

  • Personality - This is a little more complicated to quantify. As I discussed in my guide to online Jewish dating, writing profiles can be tricky. More often than not, women on SYAS write horribly generic statements which tell me nothing about themselves such that I have no idea how this person would match the personality for whom I am looking.2Even off the site I've found that many people find it difficult to answer the simple question, "how is she what I'm looking for and vice versa?" Just recently a good friend was pushing me to date a mutual friend of hers, however she was at a complete loss at how to describe her beyond the generic, "nice, sweet, pretty" bromides. Following what I've said years ago, I will only invest time, energy, and money into people whom I want to date. Meaning, there has to be a good reason for me to go out with this person as opposed to me justifying my reluctance.

I'd also add that I've periodically gone outside my range just for the sake of not being too obstinate, though the results have been the same.

Then of course is the actual date itself. In my experience, absolutely zero (0) blind shidduch date in any media has ever produced a meaningful serious relationship (though a few have resulted in good friendships). There are probably a whole slew of personal reasons for this, some of which I've explored at length elsewhere on this site. Both of the serious relationships I've had have come from meeting people in normal, if not optimal social settings.3

Has shidduch dating worked for some people? Absolutely. However, to insist that people continue to operate within the confines of a system which has clearly failed them is, as Einstein would put it, "insane." One person is not a statistically significant sample, but I doubt my experience in the blind shidduch world is unique.

While I'm not quite giving up on dating, I am acknowledging based on the empirical evidence that this method is not working for me and it would thus be foolish to continue actively pursuing blind shidduch dates, let alone paying for the privilege. Since I started dating I would not be surprised if I have received at least 1,000 total dating suggestions; but like Kohelet, I have not found even one.

As Kohelet might say in this case, this is a time to move on.


1. The site's name itself is sort of an inside Jewish joke, referring to Midrashic statements that all Jewish souls were present at the reveleation on Mt. Sinai. See for example B. Shabbat 146a.
2. To be sure, not everyone can express themselves verbally, but as I wrote in the guide to online Jewish dating, if you cannot get your personality across in a profile, don't choose this medium since your profile is all someone has on which to rely. Additionally, it is possible to write good profiles; compare for example random ones found on Ok Cupid with any of the exclusively Jewish sites.
3. One at the first Edah conference, the other at a Shabbat meal in Washington Heights.

Posted in Jewish Dating, Personal. Tagged with , , , , , , , , .
  • David

    You should try Frumster.com. They just had a facelift and their matches seem to be coming in pretty frequently (1838 matched at this point).

  • http://www.shidduchinabox.com Ori

    David, frumster is useless. I know someone ridiculously un-picky who has been on there 10 years with a total of 1 person dated from the site.

    Perhaps a new alternative is needed.

    Have you heard of Shidduch in a Box?

    It's an initiative that involves newlywed couples in the matchmaking process. At a couple's wedding, their single friends are given the opportunity to fill out their personal information; and after the wedding, the couple takes home a personalized Shidduch Kit with all their friends' information. Still a blind date, but the people KNOW you, and already have your best interest at heart, and have the ability to fork over the adjectives that you yourself provided to a potential date.

    They have a website as well as a facebook page with more info.

  • efrex

    I know that this is a nit-pick, but it's an important one, methinks. You noted that your two serious relationships came from "normal, if not optimal social settings (One at the first Edah conference, the other at a Shabbat meal in Washington Heights)"

    I fail to understand how those settings are anything OTHER than "optimal." They were settings at which you were meeting under interesting circumstances, with immediately shared and shareable interests and experiences, and no false in-betweens. What more could you want?

    Shidduchim are fine, but the proving ground for any relationship is life. The messy, time-consuming, weird actual life that you live, not the falsely structured date that you or someone else creates.

    • Josh

      That's hardly a nitpick, you're actually helping proving my point :-)

  • editrix

    I think before excoriating SYAS and shidduch dating in general, it would behoove you to explore why it took you 2.5 years, at your age, for you and your serious partner to figure out that you didn't want to marry each other. (I am in no way connected to the site or any other Jewish internet dating site).

    As for for your third point about "personality" and the ability of a friend or acquaintance to give you a satisfying elevator pitch before you're willing to date: Sometimes mutual friends have a feeling about chemistry and they can't really put it into "internet-ready" profile terms. And often this hunch about chemistry is spot on (at least in my case it was). Food for thought.

    • Josh

      1. I wasn't excoriating SYAS as much as demonstrating empirically that it doesn't work for everyone.

      2. I have the answers to that question, there's an extent to which I divulge personal information on this site, especially as it pertains to specific people.

      3. Some hunches of my friends have made sense more than others, and over time I've learned whom to trust in this regard and who is just trying to set up a single guy they know with a single girl.

  • http://marlowe1.livejournal.com Tim Lieder

    I am avoiding Shidduch in a Box based on the title alone.

    Not that it needs to be explained but
    1. It's an allusion to the Samberg/Timberlake joke song "D*ck in a Box" which is funny but do we really want to be mixing our dating services up with our dick jokes?

    2. If you ignore the Samberg/Timberlake song (or assume that it is purely coincidental) then that gives an even worse image of someone finding the love of your life, kidnapping her and leaving her in a box at your doorstep. Presumably you will then take her into your basement and romance her not letting her go until she agrees to marry you. And that's even more wrong.

  • j

    there are better and worse shatranim. if you get someone who really IS taking your needs into account and knows a lot of people they can be a good facilitator. acknowledging that your numbers wouldn't be MUCH better, best case scenario, if the goal is to meet the right person for you, anything that increases the numbers of people in potential range of what is right for you is probably helping. i've taken to being much more picky on these sites and though i haven't met the one yet, i generally think the guys i'm meeting are all around good people and it's just a matter of time before i meet someone i'm really at home with.

  • Shigeru

    This isn't really statistics; certainly it is not mathematical proof. The purpose is to succeed once, not the success rate per number of tries, and the important variables surely have to do with the person using it, rather than the nature of the service. Indeed, I don't think that this subject is amenable to standard statistical testing techniques.
    My own experiences are opposite to yours- I have a relatively large number of friends and acquaintances successfully married, who met their spouses through internet shidduch sites.

  • http://www.iit.edu/~kbloom1/ Ken Bloom

    I tried this on my own SawYouAtSinai statistics, and came up with similar results, but noticed an important caveat in these results: people who are no longer on SawYouAtSinai (for whatever reason, e.g. they got married whether to someone they met on the site or not), don't show up in your list anymore. While I was ready to complain that I've only gone out with 3 people from SawYouAtSinai, and 4 from Frumster (in person) or something like that, I realized that a few other people were missing because they were now married. I'm sure this affects both the numbers for people who you went out with, and for people who you didn't go out with.

  • Michael J Salamon

    Hate to rub it in but as I have written in two books and numerous articles - without actually meeting face to face or at least using a reliable personality measure (like EHarmony) the odds are not just slim to find a match but using a blind, third party intermediary may actually be causing an increase in divorce rates.

  • Avraham

    Hi,

    Everyone who ever was looking for a shiduch heard about Sawyouatsinai and probably it's the most popular Shiduchim site.

    Did you hear about http://Shiduch.org site?

    Did you have experience with it, can i trust it?

    Thank you