One Beta Tester’s Experience Finding Love Through Math

    Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

    I’ve never been good at math. The one statistics class I had to take in college made my palms sweat. So when the opportunity to beta-test Nanaya, a new online dating site based on math came along, I had my doubts.

    I mean, a romance algorithm? It sounds like something out of an episode of The Big Bang Theory. The cynic in me reared its head and rolled its eyes. But then I remembered that I love The Big Bang Theory and kind of have a thing for nerds. And since using the site doesn’t involve me doing any actual math, I said I would try it…for the sake of the article.

    Still, I was a little unsure about how this would work, love and math. Doesn’t distilling love down into stats and data take the wonder out of it? The magic? Rashied Amini, creator of Nanaya, allayed my concern.

    Creator of Nanaya, Rashied Amini Image courtesy of Elizabeth Gearhart

    The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

    “There is so much of the human experience, especially love, that cannot be made into a number,” he assures. “Even so, sociologists and statisticians have been quantifying personality and compatibility for many years. Millions have used personality testing and compatibility-based scoring to find love through online dating. Nanaya leverages the same personality data along with user details, such as life goals, to provide a romantic forecast.”

    A romantic forecast. That’s what makes Nanaya different. Most dating sites try to quantify some idealized version of you and match you up with an idealized version of someone you’d be happy with in your given situation. Nanaya is more about offering various situations in which your real-life self is most likely to find happiness with a real-life love.

    Love: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

    The fact that all of this came out of Amini’s own broken heart makes me trust him and the Nanaya process a lot more. Laughing about it now, he tells me, “When my girlfriend of two years and I split up, she said she wanted to see a cost-benefit analysis of our relationship.”

    Most people after a breakup might make a pro and con list over a pint of Phish Food and a weekend Netflix binge – or is that just me? But being a WUSTL astrophysics graduate student and former NASA JPL systems engineer, Amini took a more scientific approach to getting over heartache.

    “To me that [analysis] is not what love is,” he says. “Maybe I’m more of a romantic. But at the same time I decided, you know what, I bet I could do it.” Amini compares Nanaya to “the secretary problem,” a famous probability and statistics problem that addresses the optimal stopping theory. It looks at the interview process and helps people determine when to stop interviewing and pick a candidate. “It’s actually a lot like dating,” Amini says.

    The biggest step in answering the dating version of the secretary problem is to understand that there is no “one” person out there. So, I guess that means my very own Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth) is not waiting for me in England. (That terrible sound you just heard – it’s the crushing of my romantic-comedy-fueled dreams.) But there’s hope! There are likely several eligible bachelors who could possibly be an ideal fit. Nanaya’s intention is to determine the optimal situation for its users to find a successful relationship.

    All right, I’m sold. Math works. I’ll try it.

    Putting the Romance Algorithm to Work

    Nanaya starts out with a series of questionnaires that ask me about the typical demographic information before moving on to the personality test. (FYI, if you’re already in a relationship, there is a separate set of questions that will score you on your compatibility and happiness with your partner.)

    With a background in counseling and psychology, I’ve taken and given many personality tests. So, I have a pretty good idea what my results will be on this section, but I’m taking this seriously and know that I need to answer honestly to get the most out of the experience.

    I am presented with a series of images with a word or phrase at the top. None are right or wrong. I just have to choose whether it is “me” or “not me.”

    Like this (Me)

    Image courtesy of Nanaya

    Or this (Also me…Because book nerds know how to have fun.)

    Image courtesy of Nanaya

    Then I answer questions about my values, my job, preferences I have in a match, even where I want to live or might move to in the near future—which is interesting because I’ve been thinking of moving to London. Although, now that my Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy dreams are dashed, I may have to rethink that plan.

    Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

    Nanaya delivers a visually appealing report with scores that give me the odds of finding love by measuring everything from my selectivity (I’m a smidge picky), to my overall romantic opportunity (I’m most likely to meet a fella through my work as a freelance writer), and a graph of my prospects over the next few years. There is a 9.57% chance of finding love in St. Louis, but the odds go up to 82.98% if I move to a new city. London and Mr. Darcy (or any eligible bachelor that would likely be an ideal fit), here I come!

    Amini does caution, however, that Nanaya is not here to make decisions for you. It is designed to provide you with a wealth of information to help you look at your dating situation in a new light. “Even in engineering,” he says, “these types of models are where the real work begins–not ends.”

    An early version of Nanaya is launching on Valentine’s Day of this year. As more people begin to use it, more data will be gathered and the site will evolve and grow. For those interested in tapping into science to increase chances of finding love, Nanaya is still taking beta-testers on their website.