Let’s imagine for a minute that six identical 23-year-old female sextuplets were born and raised in a secluded U.S. town. The town is too small to provide six eligible male bachelors, so the women post their pictures on a nationwide online dating site. Their pictures are almost identical, but the women distinguish themselves by wearing six different-colored plain T-shirts. Based on their profile pictures alone, you might expect them to attract similar levels of interest—but you’d be profoundly wrong.
Humans had been honing the practice of courtship for millennia when Gary Kremen threw a wrench in the works. Kremen launched Match.com, the world’s first online dating site, in January 1995. Match democratized the dating world, giving the shy, nervous, and squeaky-voiced relationship-seekers a chance to shine in a game once monopolized by alpha males and bar room Casanovas. In contrast to the fast-paced world of face-to-face dating, online daters have plenty of time to choose flattering photos, hone their profiles, and craft personal messages. But while the playing field is more level than it used to be, it still involves mastering unspoken rules that give some people advantages over others.
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