Amy Webb, author of the newly released “Data, a Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match” (Dutton Adult), is a nice Jewish girl who got sick of going on lousy JDates.
Her family drove her crazy by telling her to give a chance to every guy who wanted to go out with her, which led to a lot of dating disasters.
After an especially bad date, she made a thorough, exhaustive list of everything she wanted in a man, including the general — “smart, funny” — and highly specific — “likes jazz only from the 1920s to the late 1940s.”
Next, the 38-year-old Webb, who lives in Baltimore, did market research on her competition by creating fictitious profiles on JDate and crafting a “super profile” that enabled her to market herself — and find — the exact man she conceived of in her 72-point list. She chronicles this dating adventure in her book, which also includes some pretty funny terrible date stories. This week, the Jewish Week caught up with Webb, who claims you really can find exactly who you are looking for — if you tailor your search precisely, maintain your standards — and treat yourself as a product to be marketed.
JEWISH WEEK: Some of your dating horror stories were really funny. You claim to have found the perfect man for you on JDate, but online dating can be rough. Any advice for women — and men — on how to keep their spirits up in the world of online dating?
AMY WEBB: It’s very easy to get discouraged with online dating because either you’re being flooded with matches of people who are not interesting to you or you’re reaching out to people and they aren’t getting back to you … or you are going on bad dates like I did. … In the real world, you wouldn’t be meeting that many potential dating partners in such a short time, and encountering that much rejection and disappointment.
So if you are feeling discouraged, you can take comfort in realizing it’s a bizarre process but [by being selective about who you meet] you can separate what happens online from dates that happen in real life. Treat [what happens] online as a database and be selective. In my case, if I was going out on bad dates, I could get mad at the chart but wouldn’t feel bad about myself.
Did you have any concerns about ethical issues involved in crafting fictitious profiles and having real people respond to them? Or in crafting a “super profile” based on other women’s?
If you walk into a club, or party, you aren’t not going to NOT look at other women. A lot of people log in and check out the competition, but [in 2005] when I did this it was not as easy to do that [hence the need to create fictitious male profiles]. As far as representing myself, at the end of the day I am who I am. For example, there’s a statistical advantage to having long, straight hair, but it doesn’t look right on me so I didn’t do that. … This was an exercise in product marketing … in order to market effectively you have to look your best and write effectively. … There’s also a statistical advantage to not loading up your profile with specifics. I did not talk specifically about the kinds of things I find funny, like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In real life, [my husband] Brian gets very uncomfortable watching anything with Larry David — I think because he is a younger version.
Did you feel uneasy that your search for love wound up requiring so much calculated effort, as opposed to falling into place?
The only reason I believed things would just fall into place was what I’d been taught in the movies, and by family. … When I think about the amount of effort I put into making a grocery list, a recipe, or a presentation for a client — why on earth would I not put that much time and effort into meeting the man who is right for me? No, I am not disappointed in effort I made. I wear it as a badge of honor and it’s something my husband loves. Who wouldn’t want to know your spouse has put this much effort into finding you? When Brian read my “list” he was incredibly flattered to know he was exactly what I was looking for.
Is there anything about Brian that’s different from what you envisioned when making the list?
The only thing that didn’t fit my list is he isn’t from Chicago. That’s really the only thing. It’s eerie — he’ll say it’s like I conjured him because he’s exactly what’s on this list.
Once I decided it was OK to make the list — and I had confidence to implement it — it was empowering. I should be picky as anyone. I didn’t want to get married and wind up in a divorce, or a so-so marriage. It’s a huge part of your life.
I’d be concerned that, in making such a specific list and refusing to consider anyone who didn’t add up, point-wise, I’d be so severely limiting myself that I wouldn’t go out at all.
After I made the list I really didn’t [go out much]. Until I met Brian.
It seems like a lot of people dating in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem can be really picky and perfectionist. Isn’t it a little dangerous to tell us we can find exactly, precisely who we are looking for, based on a list?
I was not interested in finding a bigger, better deal. As long as you want to get married, this process should make it more efficient. … The entire first half of my book is gaining clarity about who are you looking for … I am who I am and there was no reason to compromise. As long as you know what you want and [are willing to] treat yourself as a product to be marketed, and you have the confidence, using the system is not so difficult.
The New York Times Sunday Style section recently ran a feature called “The End of Courtship?” about how many young men aren’t making much of an effort. Do you have any advice for unmarried women and men about this?
The process that led me to Brian may have been unconventional, but everything after that was traditional. We didn’t get physical with each other right away; we really took our time dating. It was a full year before we decided on marriage. … He really courted me, and I responded, but it was three years before we were married. Once you get to the point you are getting to know someone, it should take some time.