With social distancing, endless quarantine periods and nearly all aspects of everyday life taking place over Zoom, finding love amid the chaos of 2020 is challenging. The Michigan Marriage Pact is back to help.
Just as University of Michigan students are again confined to their houses with the county’s recent stay-in-place order, the creators of the Michigan Marriage Pact released a new questionnaire to help them find potential future partners while staying socially distanced.
The revamped matchmaking survey first began as a semester-long project for Psychology 223 in October 2019. More than 5,000 lovesick undergraduates have already filled out the survey since it opened on Oct. 20.
Last year, more than 7,000 participants signed up for the pact in search of love, or at least a laugh. For that reason, co-creator LSA senior Elien Michielssen said the campus deserves a second round.
“We got a lot of positive feedback last year, and I think some people kind of felt that they missed out last year when they didn’t get to do it,” Michielssen said. “So, we decided to bring it back again.”
Based on responses to a series of 40 questions, the pact’s algorithm matches students with their potential future spouses. These questions range from typical weekend plans to tidiness to sex life. The survey also asks students for their thoughts on TikTok, masks and plans for life after COVID-19.
“I thought it was a good mix of a lot of different topics,” LSA sophomore Ella Kethledge said. “Some of them I didn’t care about as much, like astrology, while others are actually important to me like political leanings.”
Now that the project is no longer affiliated with the class, the production staff has expanded to a team of eight that is divided into subsections of team management: computer science, data science, marketing and graphic design.
On the business front, co-founder Drew Davis, an LSA senior, serves as the marketing lead and works to encourage undergraduate students to participate through social media, using an Instagram account with the handle @michiganmarriagepact and posting in Facebook groups.
“We want to keep a light-hearted, consistent tone throughout all of our outreach, so we are relying on our social media to portray that,” Davis said.
Information senior Kelley Sweitzer, the graphic-design lead, is responsible for developing brand-style guidelines and helps protect participants’ data.
The project team gauged student feedback from last year’s pact to improve this year’s edition. For example, the survey now asks for each participant’s age to prevent large age gaps between matches.
“There were a lot of disappointed seniors who were matched with freshmen or freshmen who were matched with seniors, “ Michielssen said. “And so, we did put a grade question in this year … it’ll make it a little bit less likely that there will be a big age gap.”
Another key difference is that this year’s survey asks why students are participating: While some might be looking for their soulmates, others might be curious or just bored during quarantine.
“Some people take it completely for fun and have no intention of reaching out to their match,” Michielssen said. “Whereas other people are really disappointed if their match isn’t on the same page as them.”
The marriage pact isn’t immune to the upheaval of the pandemic. For some, the pact imposes a health risk that is simply not worth it, while for others, the pact offers a much-needed sense of normalcy.
“We all need a diversion right now, and hopefully the marriage pact will either find someone love, or at least a good story,” Davis said.
Participants also agree that the pact will help students stay connected if handled safely, even if they are living hundreds of miles away from each other, especially at a time when people are feeling the mental and emotional strain of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s way harder to meet people nowadays being that you can’t go to parties. I’m in my house a lot more, so I’m meeting way fewer people,” Kethledge said. “That’s kind of why I have Tinder, because I just want to see who’s out there.”
LSA sophomore Regan Monnett took part last year and is curious to see how this version will differ. Particularly, Monnett decided to participate again to break up the monotony of quarantine.
“It’s a nice way to make friends and contact people through a distanced way because you never have to meet up in person with them. You can just reach out virtually through Zoom,” Monnett said.
This year’s pact also provides an opportunity for students like Art & Design junior Patrick McCallum, who did not participate last year. Though McCallum took the survey out of curiosity, he said he prefers the pact’s questionnaire-type approach to matchmaking over traditional dating apps like Tinder and Bumble that normalize objectification and competition as a means of dating.
“Because of dating apps, the new landscape of dating has become very superficial and unnatural. You can just go on Tinder, be an asshole and then just never talk to that person ever again,” McCallum elaborated. “With the Michigan Marriage Pact where they just give you one match, you’re not weighing the value of people against each other like on typical dating apps.”
As the survey’s deadline of Nov. 11 approaches, the team is encouraging all undergraduate students to participate in the pact, no matter what happened last year.
“My advice to anyone and everyone who took the Marriage Pact is just to take it more lighthearted and not too serious,” Michielssen said. “This is your backup plan, so honestly you focus on your career, focus on your studies and your internships. And then, you can rely on us in the Marriage Pact to help you out later.”
Daily News Contributor Evan DeLorenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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