While there’s nothing wrong with being single on Valentine’s Day, the Harvard-created site Datamatch promised that anyone wanting a date on Feb. 14 could be paired with a compatible option. Since 2019, Datamatch has expanded its services to the McGill community, matching single students on Valentine’s Day through a “very accurate” algorithm.
To find love, participants fill out Datamatch’s survey that features questions such as “What’s your major?” (the response options being the four horsemen of the apocalypse and sociology) and “Why do so many men hold up fish in their online dating profiles?” (To which my preferred answer is, “The fish is his best friend, and they have an unbreakable bond.”) Then, on Feb.14, the site calculates 10 perfect matches for each user. While this concept seems similar to common dating apps like Hinge, Datamatch requires users to sign up using their university email. This way, students can rest assured that they won’t be matched with a 30-year-old creep posing as a 21-year-old Plateau man—as one might risk with Tinder.
Claire Braaten, U3 Science, has used Datamatch for the past four years. She cited the survey as her favourite part of the process.
“[The survey] was always very specific to McGill and so entertaining to fill out,” Braaten wrote to The McGill Tribune. “[It was] like a Hinge x Buzzfeed crossover specific to McGill, [such as,] ‘Which McGill Library would you be?’”
Although a seemingly promising model, Datamatch has tanked in popularity over the last couple of years. According to Datamatch McGill’s Instagram, the site matched nearly 2,000 McGill users in 2021 but fell to 1,100 participants in 2022. In 2023, however, Datamatch only accumulated a measly 74 McGillians. While these numbers could be a result of steady and blossoming relationships (or people deciding to meet potential romantic partners IRL), many students voiced issues with the platform itself.
Josh Hirschfeld, U1 Arts, aspired to be Datamatch’s 75th McGill user until he discovered how complicated it was to create an account.
“Unfortunately I haven’t actually used the service since I couldn’t get my email verified,” Hirschfield wrote to The McGill Tribune. “[I] tried manually [verifying my account] and [the site] errored when I sent it in.”
Instead of a quick email verification system, the Datamatch website is now incompatible with Microsoft Outlook accounts, the platform McGill uses for student emails. This year, all 74 McGillians had to work to verify their accounts by emailing a Datamatch administrator and manually register themselves.
After the harrowing journey to register, the select few McGill users hit even more roadblocks in their quest to find love. Datamatch respectfully allows participants to choose if they want romantic, platonic, or a mix of both match types in their algorithm results.
“In my second (maybe third) year [Datamatch] introduced a new feature, “Friendship,” which definitely lost users,” Braaten wrote. “How many people do you know use Bumble Friends? Let’s be real: People aren’t using [dating apps] to make friends.”
While this feature allows those who are cuffed and those uninterested in the dating scene to join in on the Datamatch fun, with an already pitiful enough pool of participants, is the algorithm truly choosing perfect matches or simply whoever qualifies to be matched?
“Fast forward to Valentine’s Day morning—my matches didn’t even load. From what I could see, however, my first match was [graduating in] 2024, so maybe it’s for the best that I couldn’t see them,” Braaten said.
But this doesn’t mean that a McGill-only dating service wouldn’t be appreciated or used by students. The popular Instagram account SpottedMcGill (unaffiliated with McGill University) frequently teases students with the possibility of creating their own McGill dating app—which has generated much support in the comments section.
“Limiting options makes it easier to make choices and find a match, so having a McGill-only service would be really beneficial,” Hirschfeld said.
Until that happens, McGillians don’t have to be stuck with Datamatch’s mediocrity. Relationships are about mutual growth and happiness, and it’s time to admit that Datamatch is holding McGill back. We need to break up, and for once I’ll admit that the problem is not us, Datamatch; it’s you.