News editor delves into society, almost finds date

By ANDY MEDICI

She sits across from me at the table. We shake hands and talk about our majors, friends and… She sits across from me at the table. We shake hands and talk about our majors, friends and hopes for the future. The date is working out well so far.

Ding.

Time’s up.

We both get up and move on to the next person.

That is the reality behind speed dating. Each person gets a few minutes to test the waters and decide if the person they are talking to is worth seeing in the “real world.”

If they like what they see, they write down the person’s assigned number on an index card. If both people put down the same number, the event organizers send each person the other’s contact information.

Some go as a joke, some are dragged there by friends and some hold out hope that they may find that special someone. In less than eight minutes.

The time limit may seem shallow and superficial, but according to a study by a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, people at speed dating events look for the superficial.

Robert Kurzban received questionnaires from more than 10,000 people who used the New York-based HurryDate to try and find a potential match. Kurzban worked with graduate student Jason Weeden to find out whether these few minutes are enough.

The results argue that it is more than enough.

Most people need only a few seconds to determine whether or not they see a potential partner, and those few seconds make all the difference.

“When people believe they’re basing their decisions on religion and whether they want kids, they’re basing their decisions more on superficial data, like height and BMI [Body Mass Index],” Kurzban said.

“They get that data very, very quickly.”

Ty Elwell took a break from his 21st birthday celebration to go to a Campus Women’s Organization speed dating event last Wednesday.

“You know, if something sh-tty happens to you it’s a funny story,” Elwell said. “Or, you know, I can meet a great girl,” he added, half jokingly.

More than 60 people packed the Kurtzman Room in the William Pitt Union to attend the structured, three-minute round robin.

Lacy Betters, a 22-year-old Pitt alumna, attended as a spur of the moment indulgence.

“My two friends said, ‘We’re going speed dating,’ and I said ‘Why the hell not?'”

Megan Smith, a junior with CWO who helped organize the event, said they decided to take advantage of a concept made popular in the movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin”

“I think people want to meet new people,” Smith said. “It’s good to go outside your circle.”

That could have been what Rabbi Yaacov Deyo thought when he purportedly invented speed dating as a way for single Jewish people in Los Angeles to meet each other. What he began in the mid ’90s quickly became a national phenomenon.

Speed dating has also appeared in the recent “Beauty and the Geek” episode that aired on the WB.

Katie Mackowick, a junior, went to the event for “entertainment purposes” and she found the concept hard to take seriously.

Some of the sample questions provided at the event read like lines out of a Monty Python sketch, such as “How many virgins have you deflowered?” while another demanded to know on what date “the pants came off.”

These questions combined with awkward answers to produce an atmosphere similar to dating, but in a crowded room it was hard to make a connection.

“I don’t think people here actually expected to date,” Mackowick was saying to me.

But the bell sounded again, and we both moved on to the next prospect.

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