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|Written by Julie St. Cyr|
|Sunday, 02 March 2008 19:00|
You’ve gotta hand it to eHarmony’s marketing department;they know what they are doing. Last year, I was sitting around, enjoying my cable, and opining the lack of eligible bachelors in my circle of friends, awhen an eHarmony ad came on, professing high success rates and a scientific-sounding 29 point matching system, made by real professional something-or-others.
I took the free personality test, and it was – like a horoscope – vague yet accurate-seeming. And then I previewed my matches. They didn’t entirely suck, and a couple of them messaged me. I was intrigued (and yeah, okay, maybe a little sex-deprived) so I forked over the cash, rushed through the rest of the registration process and bought myself a membership.
Over the course of my subscription, I have met several nice guys, none of whom were really for me. eHarmony managed to set me up with: the absolute worst kisser I have ever met; a guy who I dated for several months; and another who turned out not to be The One, but a really good friend. I’m not convinced I got my money’s worth, but it wasn’t all bad. I mean, there was no true love or anything like that, but it helped put an end to my sexual frustration. In fact, I liked it enough that I convinced a friend to sign up.
Afterwards, we started talking about the match settings. You can select a lot of normal sounding options, like how far away you are willing to accept a match, and how often you smoke and drink, and how much smoking and drinking you’d accept in a match. There is also a question about religion,but somehow that seems understandable. Setting me and my loosely held, “spiritual, but not affiliated with any religon” beliefs with a fervent Southern Baptist would probably not work for the best.
The question that struck us as especially weird was the question about race. eHarmony had a seemingly random list of “ethnicities” to choose from. You could be: White – non-Hispanic, Hispanic or Latino, African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Native American, or Other.
The more we thought about it, the more my friend and I thought the “ethnicity” thing was an exercise in futility, not to mention kind of creepy. So, I wrote e-Harmony an email, asking them why the ethnicity filter was there. I mean, clearly, people are hard to categorize, but ethnicity doesn’t always have to do with values and beliefs, and, it doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot to do with attraction. Even if you are a girl with a track record of dating “Indian” or “South Asian” men, you could very well see a “Hispanic or Latino” guy, or “Asian/Pacific Islander” who strikes your fancy. Isn’t that what the pictures are for anyways? And isn’t the eHarmony site full of reminders to not judge based on looks alone? Most importantly, isn’t creating little boxes, asking people to check off not only their own ethnicity, but giving them the chance to select others based on their own ethnicity tacit approval of racism?
I already knew that some individuals were being turned down by eHarmony. A 2007 Washington Post article pointed out that some rejection had to do with: people being under the minimum age limit (21 years old); submitting personality quizzes with inconsistent results; or being married. It also rejects anyone over the age of 60. Because, you know, that’s the age when the desire for love and companionship fades completely. Also, anyone who has been married more than four times or fails eHarmony’s “dysthymia scale.” The dysthymia scale is eHarmony’s attempt to weed out individuals who “might be severely depressed.” Not on the basis of a medical opinion, but on the boxes you clicked in an online questionnaire.
eHarmony also provides no option for gays and lesbians. The Washington Post interviewed an eHarmony official who explained that, “eHarmony's matching system is based on psychological research about heterosexual relationships. Because it doesn't have similar data on gay people, the company isn't confident that it can offer successful matches to same-sex couples.” Although I don’t understand the finer details of the 29 point matching system, I wasn’t aware that I was looking for anything all that different in a relationship than my gay friends.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by all this. eHarmony was started by an evangelical Christian from the southern United States. My concern is, why they think they can export their value system north of the border? Canadians are by and large cool with gay marriage, and according to Statistics Canada, we have a higher rate of mixed marriages. Next time I’ll stick to Lavalife. That way, even if I don’t find my soul mate, at least I’ll be supporting the Canadian economy.
Thank you Julie.