The Mathematics of Love (Hannah Fry)
Synopsis (Goodreads): In The Mathematics of Love, Dr. Hannah Fry takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the patterns that define our love lives, applying mathematical formulas to the most common yet complex questions pertaining to love: What’s the chance of finding love? What’s the probability that it will last? How do online dating algorithms work, exactly? Can game theory help us decide who to approach in a bar? At what point in your dating life should you settle down?
I was recently looking for a short, easy read after completing Alice Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffett – and at under 150 pages and with an intriguing blurb, Hannah Fry’s Mathematics of Love came up trumps!
I have a few friends who are active in the online dating community, one of whom is constantly entertaining us with his dating adventures and bemoaning that at his current ‘success rate’ he is not likely to get married until 2022. When I told him I was probably going to review this book, he said “please write it so I can finally find love”. Who can resist a plea like that?!
In reality, when single and looking, we often have a list of must-haves and/or must-not-haves. The more of these you add in, the lower your chances of finding love – it is a simple enough concept…more restrictions reduce probability. To succeed in online dating, by all means, pick a couple of things that are REALLY important, but then give people a chance.
Lesson #1 – Cut down that checklist and keep an open mind!
Even more interesting though, is the data on profile pictures. In today’s life-moving-at-the-speed-of-light age, who has the time to compose, post, and then read through long profiles when, even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself, your decision will already have been half made when you look at your matches’ profile pictures? This would probably explain why applications like Tinder have become so popular recently. Therefore, generally most people will put up profile pictures that paint them in their most flattering light and downplay what they deem their less attractive features. Again…mostly nothing new, but what WAS interesting was that data analysis found that the profile pictures that got the most messages / responses weren’t those that were considered most attractive, but the ones that divided opinion – so it might actually work in your favour to put up photos that play up what makes you different even if you think some people won’t be impressed (they can go take a long walk off a short pier anyways…).
Lesson #2 – Don’t try to look perfect in your profile photos and try to be not so attractive because your potential matches will think they will have too much competition and not get in touch at ALL.
Another message to make yourself more attractive is, when going to a party and looking to talk to potential partners, choose a friend to go with you who looks similar to you but is slightly less attractive – you will then seem like the better option.
Lesson #3 – Your wingman should look like you but be less attractive (just don’t tell the friend accompanying you why if you value that friendship!)
So target(s) acquired…what now? Research further shows that regardless of the type of relationship you’re after, it pays to take initiative – intuitively, this makes sense because if you start at the top of the list and work your way down, you’ll always end up with the best possible person who will have you. If you sit around and wait for people to talk to you, you’ll end up with the least bad person who’ll talk to you.
Lesson #4 – Don’t be a wallflower and take the lead.
In her discussion on settling down, the author draws on studies that apparently show that in the time between when you start dating and the estimated age when you want to get married, you should reject the first 37% of people you date and then marry the next person that comes along who is marginally better than the average individual you’ve been dating.
The risk here is…what if your soul mate came along at 25% and according to statistics you reject them, BUT you still haven’t found someone in 2022? I don’t think Mr or Miss 25% will take kindly to you showing up and saying “I blame statistics, but marry me now?” (although I guess in rare cases where the stars all align it COULD happen…)
Also, life is unpredictable – how do you know when you are going to stop dating, so how would you define that first 37%? What if you marry someone, it doesn’t work out and you’re thrown back in the dating pool…do you start from scratch? Questions, questions…
Lesson #5 – I’m not convinced, but reject the first 37% of your dating candidates!
All in all, this book will take you on an entertaining, if not exactly groundbreaking, journey into what is important in looking for, and keeping, love. Recommended if you’re looking for something quick and easy!