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FYI Book Club: Online dating plan is a left-brained approach to love

Amy Webb
Amy Webb Brian Woolf

Like taxes and driving, dating is a topic on which almost everyone has an opinion and a strategy.

The FYI Book Club gathered recently to discuss “Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match” by Amy Webb. Every participant had a dating story, either analog or digital, funny or frightening, to share.

Webb, a professed and professional data geek, set up profiles on multiple online dating platforms. A busy small-business owner, Webb didn’t have time to “date” in the traditional manner.

She had experienced the typical hilarious and horrible fix-ups from well-meaning family and friends. But she decided she should ply her computer and data skills for more social rewards.

Unimpressed with the men responding to her profile, Webb realized her conundrum wasn’t unachievably high standards, it was a disorganized and nebulous strategy.

Readers had a great time dissecting Webb’s methodology for manipulating the online dating sites — one reader laughingly called the author “predatory.”

“She is very left-brained,” said Wallace Weber of Fairway. “Amy had a mental list of qualities she needed, but it certainly wasn’t working out. Back in college, long before Internet dating, I made a list of qualities, too. The woman who fit that list sat down in front of me the first week of college, and I married her four years later,” he said.

“It didn’t work out. You can be stupid in analog, too,” Weber said with a shrug and a laugh.

The author’s list of 72 qualities a potential mate must possess propelled much discussion. Not the qualities, but the idea that Webb crafted a list.

“Everything Amy did hinged on her ‘Mary Poppins’ list,” said John Keogh of Lenexa. “It’s a good idea, and it worked for her. She figured out to how to match the profiles. But this method wouldn’t work for everyone. Her list was hyperspecific. There was no allowance for someone to bring an element of surprise.”

Brenda Hoff of Leawood wondered if the author herself could have scored 1,500, the maximum number of points she allocated to the top candidates.

“There are folks who just aren’t as extreme about online dating as Webb is,” Hoff said. “In the book’s epilogue, written by her husband, even he said he was trying to be the person she wanted him to be to impress her family.”

People change over time, said Andi Palausky of Kansas City.

“I saw that list as flawed,” Palausky said. “There were too many specific characteristics. How much has she changed since then? What if both of them are different people 10 years from now? I know those are hard things to predict, but maybe the author should have considered the possibility of change.”

Andy Dandino of Kansas City pointed out the differences in how people behave in real life compared with their behavior on the Internet.

“How have our online personas changed how we present ourselves in real life?” Dandino asked. “We carefully curate — well, most of us — what we share on Facebook. How does that impact how we deal with people? Are we a profile you’ve read or are we what you see in person?”

Which brought up the topic of honesty.

Julie Wittman of Kansas City asked the group, “Did Amy present herself truthfully and accurately?”

“She is more honest about who she is with herself than most people are,” Keogh said. “She used the tools she knew she was good at using to craft the best, most accurate profile that fit herself.”

“She certainly made it clear what she wanted,” Dandino said, “although some of the steps she took were a little intense.”

Weber compared “Data, A Love Story” to another book he is reading, “The Ecstasy of Surrender” by Judith Orloff.

“What both authors understand is this, the first step is be totally honest about what you want,” he said.

Kaite Stover is director of readers’ services for the Kansas City Public Library.

FYI Book Club

The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Public Library present a “book of the moment” selection every six to eight weeks and invite the community to read along. To participate in a book discussion led by the library’s Kaite Stover, email kaitestover@kclibrary.org. Watch for the next selection, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, to be introduced in FYI.

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