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Webb successfully “gamed” JDate in two ways. The one that seems the most complex, and has garnered the most interest, is actually the second part of her plan. It involved logging on to the website as a “man” — screen name “Jewishdoc1000”— enabling her to scope out the competition to reverse-engineer her own profile’s desirability. She ended up crafting multiple male profiles and spending weeks importing more and more data based on the women who responded to these profiles, keeping her contact with those women to a minimum. Webb says that to her, this was the online equivalent of looking around the bar to see what other people were wearing or saying (and then, of course, the less expected part: putting that information on a spreadsheet).
Webb studied what words and images “the popular girls” on the site, some of whom she suspected of being non-Jewish, had on their pages. (Webb’s send-off to the “imposters” who sounded her Jewdar alarm when they referred to cozily spending the High Holy Days with their “bashert,” or soulmate: “The high holidays aren’t like some winter break where you and your ‘beshert’ rent a cabin in Breckenridge and drink hot toddies by the f——-g fire!”) Webb observed that women who used upbeat terms, didn’t dwell on their jobs, and had straight hair and flashed skin in candid pictures fared much better than others did. Her own profile, which her husband told me he would have passed over in “two seconds,” basically read like a wordy and intimidating résumé.
So after a month of accruing data, Webb launched her super-profile: new pictures with good lighting and makeup that show-cased her laughing and looking flirty, and predetermined keywords like “outgoing” and “world traveler,” phrases that denoted confidence and few details about her career.
“The super-profile was optimized, not compromised,” she told me. “I kept my hair curly, I wore glasses, I didn’t dumb anything down… but I also didn’t lead with MIT.”
She was inundated with messages right away.
To be sure, Webb, a self-described feminist, wasn’t thrilled with what her digital sleuthing revealed about the hetero male Jewish psyche. “Would I love it if more men were vocal about liking women who are strong and outspoken? Yes,” she said, relating her JDate struggles to her efforts to make the tech world more gender inclusive. “On the other hand, I’m so much luckier than my mother,” she added, noting that she was able to turn the tables and go after the perfect guy. “My daughter will be even luckier.”
She says from her JDate odyssey she learned to be unstinting in her demands. After years of dating, Webb realized she already knew what she wanted in a mate. That’s why before she even reverse-engineered her own profile, Webb created her Mary Poppins Husband List, a dossier of sought-after qualities, weighted based on two tiers of negotiability. Non-negotiable items? “Good in bed” and “good with money” for starters; someone who must “genuinely like and appreciate my giant, loud Jewish family” and has “no history of cheating.” More negotiable are “of medium build” and “appreciates the beauty of a well-crafted spreadsheet.” Webb converted this list into a point system and declared that she would not even go on a single date with anyone worth less than 700 points. Even when she first began to fall head over heels for Brian, who qualified, she continued to tally his attributes against the list. Sometimes they both still look at it.