Make me a match,
Find me a find,
Catch me a catch…”
Finding happiness through love is not what it used to be. In the popular Matchmaker song from the 1960s Broadway play Fiddler on the Roof, love had nothing to do with dating and everything to do with finding someone to broker the right partner for you.
Knowing that relatives and friends will probably never stop playing matchmaker, love brokering today is usually self-guided and largely dependent on technology and dating Apps. Dating Apps still do what we’ve always done – help us to look for happiness by providing a host of people to choose from on our phones or laptops.
When we swipe left to find a good catch or swipe right to make a great match, we understand our expectations for love and happiness may also differ greatly. A good catch might be a well-paid woman that doesn’t want kids or a man that isn’t afraid to commit to marriage. Whatever the case,
television shows like the Bachelor or Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker remind us that many old school rules still apply in our modern world. In fact, the job of Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger is not unlike that of Joan Ball, a woman who revolutionized modern dating practices back in 1963.
Joan created a matchmaking formula and company called the Eros Friendship Bureau Limited after working for ten miserable years in a marriage bureau in London. She saw how unsuccessful many of the matches and appreciated what it meant to take control of her own life. Joan was a headstrong teenager abused and abandoned by her parents. With support from an aunt and uncle, Joan built a life for herself and discovered she had a knack for matchmaking.
Contrary to traditional methods, Joan realized it was better to find out what people didn’t like in a partner versus what they did like. Joan’s success grew to the point where she established her own business even though the 1960s were still a difficult time for women entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, people were starting to question the legitimacy of marriage bureaus, wondering if they were a front for prostitution.
But Joan was all business and designed flow charts to organize her large pool of questions, answers, and applicants. In 1964, Joan changed her company name to Com Pat (computerized compatibility) hoping to build greater trust and to communicate the value of her scientific approach.
Joan went a step further and implemented a more efficient and effective customer Q and A decision tree by using computer punch cards with encoded data. She was the first to do this even though a group from across the ocean started doing the same thing at Havard University. They called themselves Operation Match.
They believed they were the first to develop a technology-driven dating service and eventually became industry leaders. They had more access to capital than Joan, who had little money to invest in the business or to spend on advertising. Unfortunately, Joan was cash-strapped like many entrepreneurs, especially women in the tech industry.
A series of advertising mistakes, including an incorrect telephone number on her paid ads, sabotaged what little financial efforts she could make to grow her business. Unable to scale up her business, Joan could not compete with new competitors to the market like Dateline. They benefited from Joan’s early investments and hard work educating people about the benefits of dating services. By 1974, Operation Match had grown so quickly, it swooped up Joan’s business because Joan could no longer afford to carry her debt. All that Joan had built over ten years was sold to for a paltry £2,000.
Years after Joan closed her business, she struggled financially and physically. But true to form, she regained her health and self-esteem after learning she had dyslexia. It’s amazing to see how Joan build a business in technology despite wrestling with reading and math. Joan bounced back with a book called Just Me and continued to date even though she never married.
I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for Joan to watch competitors cash out on a multi-million dollar industry that she had helped shape. So many women still face the same challenges. It also irks me to know Joan remains relatively unknown for her technological contributions to the first dating industry, but what matters most is that she found her own happiness.
In the overall quest for love and happiness, one other question bothers me. I realize dating Apps continue to be popular tools do they really work? Survey Monkey says dating Apps are used by 75% of young people (aged 18-25), with most using the Tinder App and 36% of adults (25-34) and 54% of older adults (45-54 using Match.com. But there are no conclusive studies about whether or not people like using Apps and if they really work.
Trust and safety are obviously big issues when using these Apps, but in the absence of other ways to connect with people, dating Apps are here to stay. As the next generation of love-seekers wades into uncharted technologies with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and assisted AI, we should expect to see more changes in the way people relate to one another. If we continue to value love and happiness as a fundamental part of what it means to be human, let’s hope we find ways to connect beyond technology to embrace love and happiness.