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Follow the Filter Bubble

Love in the filter bubble?


/ June 1st, 2011 /

Personalization algorithms already tell us what movies to watch, news stories to read and tunes to listen to. It was only a matter of time, then, that they’d tell us who to love.

Matching algorithms aren’t new to online dating services. EHarmony, Chemistry and OKCupid have long served up compatible mates based on dozens, if not hundreds, of questions singles answer on their sites.

But a new dating app, StreetSpark, is venturing out internet-wide to pick up clues on who you’re likely to become enamored with. Love seekers on the site can plug into their Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter accounts to discover potential lovers with similar tweets, profiles and cafe haunts. (That, at least, is the concept. So far this single has yet to be sent a match.)

It’s like “traditional” online personalization but in reverse. Instead of telling you what you’ll like based upon your friends’ preferences, it tells you who you’ll want to be friends with based on what you like.

StreetSpark touts their service as giving “serendipity a helping hand.” Normally we have to wait for luck to bring us face to face with that special someone; StreetSpark provides us with a helpful homing device right in our smartphone.

It’s an odd usage of “serendipity,” though, which describes the phenomenon of making desirable discoveries by accident. If you instruct your iPhone to tell you when there’s a sympatico mate in your hood, bumping into them can’t really be described as “an accident.” Of course, the makers of StreetSpark are aware of that contradiction and are tongue and cheek in using the term.

But it’s more than a semantic quibble. Part of appreciating the beauty of “making discoveries by accident” is to understand that sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for. If you’re a romantic, that can especially be true in the case of love. It’s not as if we have the profile of “the perfect guy” in our head and falling in love is just a matter of luck when you’ll run into that profile. The “accident” of love is when we meet someone who doesn’t fit our pre-conceived ideal and yet, mysteriously, we fall head over heals. In the process, if we’re truly lucky, we’re opened up to a new, exciting and unknown world.


 


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