How a Dating App for Burrito-Lovers Exposed One of Online Dating's Biggest Myths

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How a Dating App for Burrito-Lovers Exposed One of Online Dating's Biggest Myths
The only conceivably good thing about branded April Fools' pranks is that they're confined to a 24-hour period. The press releases go out; the "jokes" get mocked and aggregated; and within a day it's all disappeared from our minds and homepages.

But this year, one prank remains stubbornly present, almost four weeks after the day came and went. In fact, Burrit-oh! - the dating site that pairs singles based solely on their taste in portable Mexican - has proven so unexpectedly successful that maker Zoosk is thinking of keeping it.

"We all thought this was a really good idea and hoped it would take off," said Megan Murray, the site's senior content strategist. "But we didn't think it would take off like this."

To date, nearly 2,000 people have signed up for Burrit-oh! - and the true fans are really into it. While many signed up for laughs and forgot, in typical April Fools' fashion, Zoosk said they've seen an unusual surge of people exchanging more than 20 back-and-forth messages.

For reference, competitor OkCupid considers a match successful if a message chain survives four exchanges. Surviving 20 is great. Exchange 56 messages - Burrit-oh's record - and you're basically soulmates.

This is interesting not only because of the LOL-zy subject matter - which came up, not surprisingly, over drinks - but because of the casual manner in which it slays the reigning myth of the online dating industry.

According to virtually every major dating site (including several that Burrit-oh! jabbed at in its March 31 press release), online dating only works because of sophisticated "matching algorithms" that pair people according to some "deeper" measure of interests or personality.

On Burrit-oh!, however, the least sophisticated of algorithms pairs people on the most shallow of measures ... and they're still hitting it off, apparently! Which supports the finding, long advanced by social scientists, such as Northwestern's Eli Finkel, that matching algorithms are less real science than really good marketing.

Burrit-oh! is itself marketing, of course - these "pranks" inevitably are. The site goes out of its way to make clear that parent Zoosk "sees through" the fiction of love algorithms.

No one's ruling out the possibility, however, that Burrit-oh! may outlive that initial purpose: Zoosk said they've decided to keep supporting the site as long as people are still using it.

"Personally, I am single and love burritos," a hopeful Murray said, "and think it would be amazing if I could meet the love of my life on a burrito dating app."

© 2016 The Washington Post


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