University-level dating during the pandemic
How the Aphrodite Project and similar projects have changed dating
As the pandemic continues to surge and COVID-19 regulations remain in place, many are finding romance and fun. From dating apps to newly-designed matching algorithms, students are being matched by the thousands from the comfort of their beds. This is especially true when it comes to university students in Canada, including at McMaster.
However, in addition to a rise in online dating app usage, there have been many innovative projects seeking to help students bound to their homes and laptops find a match.
Perhaps most notable among these projects is the Aphrodite Project. The Aphrodite Project is an algorithm that matches students based on their responses in a long questionnaire.
The project was designed by two University of Toronto exchange students, with the first trial of the software having been trialled in Singapore in 2019. After it was clear the algorithm was a success and full of promise, it was adapted to Canadian universities, starting with U of T and the University of Waterloo.
The site is now open to students across many universities, including McMaster. For many, this algorithm was a success and a way to find love and happiness amid the pandemic.
Among students who found love through this algorithm last year is Karin Lie, a fourth-year student at the University of Waterloo studying psychology.
“I was very impressed,” Lie explained. “We did get along very well.”
The first batch of matching in Canada was completed in 2020, with thousands of students being matched prior to Valentine’s Day. The developers of the Aphrodite Project even opened up a special version of their algorithm, Aphrodite Project: Pandemic Edition.
This targeted students amid the onset of the pandemic, which hoped to offer students an opportunity to meet someone and be distracted from the gloomy times of 2020.
In addition to the Aphrodite Project designed by students at U of T, there are similar projects that have been designed specifically for students at Mac. Among these are Match At Mac, which was run over the summer of 2020 and Mac Aphrodite Project.
These operate similarly to the Aphrodite Project designed at U of T in which Mac students fill out questionnaires and are matched with what is calculated to be the best possible option. Students participating in the Mac Aphrodite Project received their matches on Feb. 13, 2021.
These projects are important this year, as the transition to online learning at universities has presented challenges to many, with fewer opportunities available for socializing and romance. For many students, these algorithms offer a more thoughtful and personalized way to meet potential matches that involves more than swiping right or left.
Although romance and love are obviously never guaranteed, these platforms offer a new and unique way to meet people. As an alternative to conventional dating applications, more personalized platforms like Aphrodite Project have the potential to become pivotal to online dating and match-making.
Among the students frustrated with dating apps during the pandemic is Abby Liznick, a second-year health sciences student at McMaster.
“At a time when we are all longing for a connection and the ability to spend quality time with others, many turn to dating apps to find instant companionship,” said Liznick. “While these connections temporarily fill the social void left by the pandemic, they are just that — only temporary.”
These matchmaking projects are a testament to the adaptability and innovation people have come up during the pandemic. They offer a glimmer of hope for those who are unable to otherwise experience romance or socializing due to the social restrictions, especially those who are hesitant to try online dating apps.
Marzan Hamid, a second-year health sciences student, took a chance over the summer of 2020 and completed the Match At Mac questionnaire, eventually to be matched with someone later that year.
“I think it’s really great that students are taking the initiative to connect others, especially during these unique circumstances,” explained Hamid. “It’s nice to find out that there are still creative ways to meet new people even during a pandemic. I’m sure this will benefit many of my peers!”
Thousands of people have been matched by recently-made dating algorithms. This is in addition to the huge rise in usage of dating apps like Tinder since the pandemic began. The future looks bright for dating among university students stuck at home.