Of course, this greatly restricts activity for the men, but the restriction breaks the great coordination problem and solves the tragedy of the commons: since women are not being inundated with messages, the men they match have a real chance of a date.
In the case of online dating, the “shared resource” is women users’ attention: if every man “overfishes” then the women’s attention (and patience) runs out, and the women abandon the app altogether.
The men (let alone the women) would benefit from a collective agreement to each send fewer and higher-quality messages, but have no way to co-ordinate such an agreement.
In their efforts, both apps employ strategies that a game theorist would approve of.
Kang reports that American dating apps traditionally had a ratio of roughly 60% men to 40% women, “which doesn’t sound that extreme, but if you actually take into account activity level – guys are twice as active as women – the gender ratio becomes even more lopsided; in the active user base it’s more like .” This kind of skewed ratio can have huge effects on users’ incentives; as Tim Harford, an economist, has written, even a slight imbalance in a market radically shifts power away from the over-represented group, as they are forced to compete hard or remain single.
The women in those letters were not imagining the fact that it seems like there is a dearth of men; this is especially true if you live in urban areas like New York, where females far outnumber males.