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Why I hate EHarmony and their "Culture of Sameness"

  • Jul 13, 2009
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Yes.  I admit it.   I did a short eHarmony “experiment” and the results are in. I am convinced that Dr. Warren has created a ‘culture of sameness’ where individuals are looking for replicas of themselves to date. Repeated exposure to certain ideals creates a "culture" and eHarmony is really great at this. 

1. The 29 Levels of Compatibility – they advertise this, they PATENTED this, they emphasize this to the point where you can’t browse potential matches and pick someone interesting. THEY send you matches based on the 29 Levels stuff and all 29 are a secret that no one gets to know, but compatibility (sameness) is what’s pitched.

2. Guided Communication – this starts with the profile and then the decision to enter into communication. Most people pick the canned questions with the multiple choice answers and breeze through the first part, then there are lists of things you like and don’t like, they are called “Must Haves and Can’t Stands”. A little dramatic don’t you think? Then it’s more questions for a couple of rounds before you enter (cue angels singing) OPEN COMMUNICATION. The thing with all of the steps is that the process encourages looking at a human being like data on a spreadsheet. They ask "what makes you more nervous" and you answer "speaking in front of an audience" - she closes you b/c she wants a people-person with confidence. Blah.

Let’s examine three situations where I went through the entire Guided Communication and see how they turned out. The real ironic farce here is that after all of that work online, you finally meet and you STILL know nothing about each other. I digress, I correct myself, I move on…let’s go.

1. Marisa – Despite my bias against eHarmony, I admit that Marisa and I were getting along very well. We went on several dates, she even invited me to a hockey game in a suite hosted by one of her work clients. Then we talked about her upcoming vacation to Amsterdam and it came out that I never have nor will I do any illegal drugs. She then concluded that this was important to her and she wanted to share her pot smoking lifestyle with her partner. I was OK with HER smoking if I didn’t have to be around it, but we were out of “sameness equilibrium” and she couldn’t take it and we stopped seeing each other. I just made up the phrase "sameness equilibrium"…I’ll have to thank her for that one.

2. Stephanie was another great girl that I met in real life. We spent a LOT of time online as our schedules never meshed. We kept at it though and were really excited to meet each other. We met for coffee only to learn that neither of us actually drinks coffee.  We both just thought that’s where people meet. Well…after our little date she was headed to REI to pick up some supplies for a camping trip that weekend. She asked if I liked to camp and I explained that after being in the Marines, it initially seems like work, but that I love to share experiences so I would definitely participate…which is so much more than “I’d go”. I also said that after a couple of hours of scouting the area and routing fire escapes and such that I would relax and have a great time. She later said that she really wants someone who enjoys camping like she does because she dated someone who hated it and it didn’t work out so well. Sameness test – FAILED. Camping was not a part of the 29 Levels of Compatibility so she who contacted me first bailed. Oh well…she’d probably divorce me later for ordering wrong at a restaurant!

3. This last one Googled me and found my social networking profiles and specifically asked not to be identified by name, even a misspelled name or initials. (sigh) She is a lawyer so to avoid litigation, I will oblige. We will call her Counselor. Anyway, Counselor and I talked on the phone a couple of times and she asked me about what I do. This is always a tough question as they are not prepared for such an involved answer. I gave her the list of revenue making activities and she focused in on the acting. She asked me if I was in SAG or AFTRA. Usually, this is an annoying question b/c most people are questioning whether you are serious and professional when they ask, but I just said “both”. There was a brief moment of silence before she said, “Too bad. We can’t date then”. Of course, I asked why and I was told that she works in entertainment for a studio and gets into litigation and arbitration with unions all the time and worried about a CONFLICT OF INTEREST. I wrote that in all caps because I wanted to make sure that you didn’t think you read it incorrectly. I won’t go into all of the “venues of exploitation” arguments not to mention the probability of conflict, but they were easy arguments for me to make. I was cool though and said “I understand your hesitation, but I suggest we have a sidebar over dinner to discuss these issues”. The sameness phenomenon here met a match with the logic of JD and lost, but it was evident just the same.

Is eHarmony unique with this culture of sameness? I can’t imagine that people want to be with a partner who is like them in every way. I look for some common ground, but I would hope to live a life of constantly growing and sharing with each other. I would hope we have varied perspective with enough respect for each other to have both flourish in the relationship. Maybe camping isn’t my first choice of activity, but it is likely that if my significant other really loved it, that passion would rub off on me.

When we meet people in real life, chemistry and attraction come first. Then you start meshing your personalities and habits and hobbies and such. I think that once people figure out that they like each other that these differences matter less. With eHarmony, you don’t even know the person, but you have data and text to interpret to rule people out. I went through this so others who are looking for the beauty of difference can avoid the two peas in a pod comfort of eHarmony.

I reject the eHarmony culture of sameness. I am pretty freaking cool, but I imagine that there is only room in a relationship for one person like me! I embrace a culture of teamwork where two people work together and bring DIFFERENT strengths and perspectives. This team will go through life sharing with each other and growing together and affecting each other. Mirrors are for brushing your teeth or putting on makeup or shaving. Hopefully, the mirrors in your life won’t be the people you choose to be with but rather glass reflections used for shaving and makeup and brushing your teeth and for seeing objects "closer than they appear to be" while driving.

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January 03, 2012
These arguments sound substantive. What would you have eHarmony do? i.e. Base their matchings on the 29 levels of incompatibility? Also, the divorce rate is relatively high anyway in our society at large. People may not be honest completely on these eHarmony screenings either. I see eHarmony as just another way of meeting people.
September 14, 2010
Excellent review. I had the same experience, but as you have already stated the problem so clearly, I think I can skip the review I was going to write.
May 12, 2010
Excellent review! Of all the online dating sites currently active, eHarmony seems to be the one most adherent to the 1970s concept of computer dating. Perfect matches occurring via the soulless crunching of data didn't sound reasonable back then, and it still doesn't now.

One thing you didn't touch on (and this might have changed in the past few years) was that eHarmony, unlike other dating sites, has often advertised itself as a fast-track to marriage, for people eager to find not just a compatible date but a permanent life partner. Maybe it is just me, but diving into dating with this as an immediate and crucial goal is never a good idea.
January 21, 2010
Just as I suspected... I hate all these online artificial dating sites. This is one area where getting out and meeting people beats the Internet hands down. And I'm not just saying that because people generally like me in person and hate me on the Internet. :-) Great review!
December 01, 2009
I read this review quite a good number of times but never commented for some reason. The way it broke down the flaws on 'matching' is just so cool. Your write up totally nailed it, humans are such unpredictable creatures and it is hard for any computer or person to do these sorts of things. I still prefer the old fashioned way to dating--I mean'winging' it. Nice personal touch on this review, bud.
October 25, 2009
I enjoyed your comments very much! I, too, tried eharmony but chickened out and never communicated with any of my matches. I agree that differences are fine in a relationship. My husband and I were absolutely nothing alike and were happily married for 25 years. I wish you good luck, dalydose.
September 28, 2009
Back in the day when my friends and I used to go out dancing I wondered why the guys I thought were attractive were never attracted to me. To make a long story short I made up my own theory of instant personal attraction; most people who are well adjust emotionally are attracted to someone who resembles them physically 9 times out of 10. In other words eveybody has a type. Your type can also be used by someone in the know to tell whether they should speak to you or run the other way in abject terror. Case in point Dudley Moor; 5'2', dark hair, dark eyes. almost exclusive dated and married women over 5'10', blonde and blue. This shows self -dissatisfaction. Nothing to do with eHarmony, but it just made me think of those days again. There's a lot more to it of course including how both partys perceive themselves but...
October 12, 2009
How do you know that the guys you were attracted to weren't attracted to you? Many guys have problems approaching women in those situations.
October 12, 2009
I really believe that everybody has a type that they are attracted to in a bar type situation and that when they are the antithesis to your own real self that this is not a good thing.
March 14, 2012
I have to disagree...no doubt eharmony is terrible (met and divorced my x from there) but, I have to respond to your "bar typing" remark. I used to think that I had a type too. Yet when I reminded myself of all the men I'd met and been attracted to over the years, they were all different. Here is what I see-every time you go to a club (or anywhere) you are not the same person. Some nights you feel flirty, some quiet, some angry and some wild. With each different mood you send out different signals to all the men present, and they will respond in kind. In addition to your mood, there are always other factors that will influence our choices-moon cycles, weather, good and bad events in our lives ( I know the guy I met the week following 9-11 wasn't my type at all and we lived together for a year!). The only constant in the universe is change.
September 18, 2009
Having been subjected to e-harmony I can attest to their bias towards finding a virtual twin for their members. However, what they can't control for is human nature. As thorough (and annoying) as the compatibility quiz is - it only works if truth is involved. Many dates simply misrepresent themselves in a way that could be identified earlier without such a cumbersome and juvenile method for initial contact. Much too rigid for my tastes.
October 12, 2009
It is rigid and people do lie. Some people arent' honest with themselves and believe that what they WANT to be, they really are...and ohhhhhhhhh, do I have news for them! :)
August 27, 2009
OK, one of my friends just read my review...seriously, JUST read it! :) I was reminded of my initial horror of eHarmony:

The second match that they sent me was the girl I had broken up with just a few weeks earlier. Yup, I finally broke free and there she is....in my Inbox...in a picture...THAT I TOOK!

Maybe I was biased about eHarmony from the start. hmmmm...
July 15, 2009
This is a great review!! One of the most useful ones I have read here. Thanks.
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About the reviewer
Jeff Daly ()
Ranked #46
Member Since: Jul 13, 2009
Last Login: Mar 4, 2013 03:52 PM UTC
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Pasadena-based eHarmony (www.eharmony.com) launched in the United States in 2000 and is now the #1 Trusted Relationship Services Provider in the USA. eHarmony's patented Compatibility Matching System® allows eHarmony members to be matched with compatible persons with whom they are likely to enjoy a long-term relationship. Millions of people of all ages, ethnicities, national origins and religious and political beliefs have used eHarmony's Compatibility Matching System to find compatible long-term relationships. Today, an average of 236 eHarmony members marry every day in the United States as a result of being matched on the site.* eHarmony is available in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
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