Computing Cupid: Online Dating and the Faith of Romantic Algorithms

  • Sokfa F. John University of KwaZulu-Natal


The religious identity and preferences of daters increasingly constitute key data in algorithmic matchmaking processes, including religious dating sites. This article explores the implication of online dating algorithms for religious people looking for romantic relationships. The article demonstrates that, while religious dating sites reinforce heteronormativity, using narrow theologies and algorithms, the work they do on these sites further entrench these attitudes at much deeper, invisible, and ubiquitous levels. Using data from a study of more than 20 Christian dating websites and several sources of public discourses on online dating algorithms, this article shows that online dating sites centre their offerings around a particular interpretation of God’s plans for romantic relationships. These sites also position their services and algorithms as mediators or facilitators of such plans. I argue that in mining user data, these dating sites mine culture with some of its biases and norms. Thus, users, algorithms, dating technologies, account settings, and the system designers co-create user experiences and the cultural outcome of user interactions with online dating technologies, including how these shape their core values and attitudes surrounding gender and sexuality.


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