Although quarantine and isolation have wreaked havoc on many Yalies’ love lives, the return of the free matchmaking service Datamatch offers hope for on- and off-campus students looking to find romance in the time of COVID-19.

Datamatch was originally founded in 1994 at Harvard and came to Yale in 2019. The service pairs participants with 10 algorithmically compatible matches based on their answers to an online survey. Individuals can specify whether they hope to find a romantic partner or a friend. Over 1,300 Yale students participated in Datamatch in 2020, and new features such as the ability to list crushes, a block list and the service’s partnership with Snackpass promise higher participation rates this semester.

“With people in quarantine, people are more inclined to do it, because it provides a lot of fun,” Datamatch Yale Campus Lead Sara Thakur ’22 said.

One welcome addition to Datamatch is a “crush roulette” feature, which allows participants to list two individuals that they feel will be compatible with one another. Individuals that are listed in the feature will have a significantly higher chance of being matched with one another. The service counterbalances this with a new “block list” to prevent awkward matches with exes or, worse yet, siblings.

Also new this year is a partnership with Snackpass. According to Thakur, matches from the service will be able to receive free food from any Snackpass-affiliated restaurant — up to $5 per person — if they mutually agree to go on a date. Thakur hopes that the appeal of free food will both encourage more people to participate and help facilitate conversations between matches should they meet up. At the very least, it provides an excuse for a first date, Thakur said.

Questions featured in Datamatch are lighthearted and largely center around campus culture. One asks, “What do you do on a Wednesday night?” Possible answers include “throwing up in the bathroom of Woads because you had one too many penny shots,” “pregame in your friend’s suite and never make it to Woads,” and the first year’s plight of “What’s Woads? Quarantine is all I know.”

As of Monday night, 1,180 Yale students have signed up for the service. Thakur attributes much of this success to the service’s “fun and casual” nature, and she believes that this will have special appeal during a pandemic. She maintains that this humorous nature does not discount the “magic” of Datamatch, citing romantic success stories from multiple college campuses and at least one marriage.

“It’s whatever you make of it,” Thakur commented. “It’s a breath of fresh air. If you want to find love for it, you can. But it’s fun no matter what.”

Datamatch participant Olivia O’Connor ’24 noted her appreciation of Datamatch’s “less-than-serious” questions, contrasting it with other matching making services. In addition, O’Connor was quick to mention the Snackpass promotion as a plus, before adding that the service’s “mystery” was another compelling motivator.

“Datamatch was self-aware enough to acknowledge the weirdness of matching you with strangers,” she commented.

Tadea Martin-Gonzalez ’25, another Datamatch participant, also complimented the service’s humorous questions. While Martin-Gonzalez is doubtful that she will find a soulmate through Datamatch, she is hopeful and confident that the questions will help her find friendship.

In addition to the laughs the questions may provide, the service also offers the hope of developing deeper connections, something many off-campus students may lack in a time of COVID-19. Martin-Gonzalez remarked that first-year students were already “very separated based on their residential college” last semester. Living off campus has only added to the challenges of meeting other students, she said.

“I haven’t really had a ton of opportunities to just hang out with Yale people because we’re just all so busy, and now I’m physically removed from them,” Martin-Gonzalez lamented. “Having Datamatch, a specific program to facilitate that type of connection, is just phenomenal, for both platonic and romantic purposes.”

Datamatch launched Feb. 7 and will remain open until Feb. 13. Matches will be released on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Sean Pergola | sean.pergola@yale.edu