Olsson didn’t actually promote her Date Me doc, but Chana Messinger, a teacher and blogger, tweeted it in March 2021, and said, “I love that kind of thing: people who show themselves out there, say clearly and publicly that they want a partner, and know who they are and what they’re looking for.” Messinger went on to start a thread of some of their favorite Date Me docs, a celebration of the subculture. Fascinating to browse through and a little voyeuristic. They also require a much longer attention span than Tinder.
I reached out to Olsson to ask her what inspired her to put out a Date Me doc. The pandemic is part of this story because of course it is. “For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t go to house parties, group events, or get-togethers with friends of friends very often,” Catherine Olsson told me via Twitter DM. “I wanted something that would allow for friend-of-friend intros in the world of the pandemic. “
More often than not, though, Olsson just wanted to filter out people who didn’t like this type of dating and no longer rely on chance to find the right match. “If spontaneity hasn’t worked yet, why not help?” she wrote to me.
All of this is deep rational. You could also say practical, except that the distinction between practical and rational is important in Silicon Valley today because rationalism is now its own influential subculture. Almost all of the people quoted in this story identify as rationalists or, as Olah put it, with values associated with effective altruism. Olsson said she doesn’t think the Dating Document is a widely used format outside of those circles: “It was always(?) meant to be passed around within our subcultural communities. It’s a ‘by nerds, for nerds’ format!”
But of course, dating and love aren’t always optimized. We think we know what we want, but actually we’re pretty crappy at judging what makes us happy. Or, as WIRED previously explained, “Good romantic partners are hard to predict from data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests a lot of us are dating wrong.”
Like many people, I’ve been on and off dating apps, and my deepest realization, which isn’t very profound, is that the people I’m totally attracted to in real conversations are often people I might have walked past am in an app. Also, I’ve never done a Date Me doc because it sounds humiliating, but I once published a 5,000-word article that practically screamed out my singleness, so same difference.
Date Me docs seem like a natural next step in the evolution of online dating, not because the results are necessarily better, but because the docs themselves at least feel like an effective form of self-expression. They are the anti-app, embracing the vastness of the open web and escaping the ideals, shady algorithms and templates of containerized dating apps. Apps and web, web and apps and so on and so on. In a way, this is also the natural ebb and flow of dating. We alternately expand and contract our dating pools based on our needs and desires. Or we verticalize – by limiting our options based on religion, culture or age – and when that doesn’t work, we go horizontal again. (And I don’t mean that as a euphemism, though, sure, why not.)