Book Review: “Dataclysm” by Christian Rudder

You don’t have to be a big information and data nerd like I am to find this book interesting, though it certainly won’t hurt.

I’m a graduate student in a doctoral Information Studies program. This means I’ve read a lot of different books about data and the Internet. I’ve also done a little of my own research into social media and, specifically, OKCupid.

Cover of Dataclysm by Christian RudderDataclysm‘s author, Christian Rudder, was one of the founders of OKCupid, and has turned data mined from the site’s millions of interactions into an interesting view of the patterns of behavior of the online dater.

The book is informative, intriguing, and, at times, pretty funny. Rudder’s writing style is accessible and conversational, bringing trends and statistics from the academic set to the casual reader. Much of the data is focused on heterosexual coupling, which was a bit disappointing, but Rudder indicates late in the book that there were few differences when you looked at data about gay or bisexual users. That in itself is interesting, because if, like straight men, gay men prefer younger partners, how does that translate? Obviously both halves of a couple cannot be younger.

Another small disappointment is that the advance ebook didn’t properly display most of the graphs, though Rudder’s descriptions were clear enough that I was able to understand what they were showing.

In the middle of the book, Rudder discussed some rather interesting and controversial topics like race and body image. His coverage of the way online daters view race was pretty comprehensive and a little disturbing — his coverage isn’t what was disturbing, it was more that he found that people are more discriminating than they would ever admit to. The discussion of body image was brief, however, and mainly focused on Tumblr’s #proana controversy. I wish he would have looked at some data relating to weight — specifically fat — and online dating. OKCupid not only asks for your body type, but has at least a few questions that focus on the weight of a potential match, so there must be some data that could be presented.

Overall, however, this book was fascinating and really pleasant to read. Beyond my own nerdy and intellectual interest in the subject of social media use and data, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a look at the habits of online dating site users and those with concerns for Internet privacy.

Verdict: 4/5 stars

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) was released September 9, 2014.

I received a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley. This review is my own uninfluenced opinion.

By [E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

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