Power balance in matching markets
Long long time ago, when I was a teenager, I had a crush on this boy. After a few days, it came to my notice that he was crushing me back and my very first instinct was to lose the crush. I couldn’t get myself to fancy him anymore. I had been conditioned to believe that crushes can only be one way and that a crush is worth crushing only if you’re perpetually in a state of longing.
I must have thought uncertainty, un-fulfillment and being in a position of lower power are virtues of love. You’ll realise I was not alone in thinking this way when you watch either the “Before” Trilogy series or Vicky Cristina Barcelona. So, how is it that we end up in this position of lower power or state of longing for something to happen?
I remember, in late 2011, I was walking around the alleys of Grand Bazaar in Istanbul determined to buy a set of whirling dervish dolls at a certain price. I spent hours bargaining with several shopkeepers, tried all my threatening tactics, etc only to not be given much attention by any of them. In retrospect, I realise that I wanted to make the sale happen more than them because I knew that I had limited opportunities and time in that market compared to any of the sellers.
So, whenever we see greater benefit/ have limited time in making a partnership decision than the other party, we tend to fall into a position of lower negotiating power. This is independent of how good your negotiating skills are that can be attributed to your Relationship Quotient (RQ).
In matrimonial markets, traditionally, men have had more power since it’s usually the bride’s family that takes an active interest in reaching out to the guy’s. I don’t know about other religions, but in the Hindu tradition, getting your daughter married is viewed as one of the biggest charities a bride’s parents make in their lifetime and they’re usually quite proactive about it. Hence, you have dowry and all that in some communities.
On the contrary, in the dating markets, women somehow have greater power than men simply by the virtue of demand and supply in the singles market at any given point of time. I firmly believe that, at least at the start of a dating/ matrimonial relationship, there must be a balance of power in order to make a rational decision and hence, when I mediate matches, I try my best to introduce people on an equal footing so as to allow the involved couple to tip the power balance the way they like, if at all.
Let me illustrate what imbalance of power does to matching-markets. Tinder (and a lot of other dating apps today) has this feature of mutual like. You right swipe a few 100 profiles everyday (if you’re a guy that is) and then, after sometime (or a lot of time), end up with a match when a woman you have right swiped, right swipes you back. Now, how often does this woman text you on her own? Do you think it’s just social protocol that stops her from initiating the texts or is it also because the match occurred because you were the first to right swipe her?
I have learnt from numerous surveys that getting a match on these apps is hardly an indication of a conversation starting. I think it’s simply because of the imbalance of power built into the “match” feature. If a “match” was identified at a random amount of time after both parties right swiped in a way not to know who right swiped whom first, then you’ve a reasonable balance of power in the matching markets.