Merging Social Media into the field of Online Dating

On: September 27, 2009
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About Denise Pires
Denise Pires is currently a MA New Media student at the University of Amsterdam. She has a bachelor degree in Interaction Design (Hogeschool van Rotterdam, Communication and Multimedia Design. Denise works as an usability researcher at valspat | usability onderzoek in Amsterdam. She does research on the efficiency and effectiveness of websites, games and other interactive products. Her main fields of interest are the digital identity, Augmented Reality and RFID.

Website
http://denisepires.wordpress.com/    

Personally on-line dating is not my cup of tea, and my boyfriend would kill me if I would consider it, but for some reason the phenomena itself keeps grabbing my attention. The basic concept of dating sites has not really changed a lot through the years, apart from the matchmaking algorithms that can differ from one site to another. On the average dating site, you can fill in a profile, upload a photo of yourself – preferably a photo showing you at your best of course – and fill in some extra personal information (the colour of your eyes, weight and height, sex preferences and so on). Based on this information your ideal match can be found.

g214The fun starts when filling in the characteristics of your perfect match. This is where you can try to make the dreams and fantasies you have had about your perfect match come true. At least, that is what dating sites promise. The matchmaking algorithms (that are being) used seem to get close to the ‘perfect match’, but there are a lot of factors that contribute to a mismatch. The variables used in profiles can seduce users to fill in incorrect information about themselves [1]. This is somewhat understandable. No one is going to fill in that he or she weighs over 150 kg, loves to eat at McDonalds and has 10 cats and 5 dogs because this can decrease the number of matches found.

Another aspect is the misrepresentation that can be encountered on dating sites [1]. You can display yourself in another way than you are in real life to increase the number of matches. It is perfectly understandable that users try to influence these these variables, but it makes finding a ‘perfect match’ much harder with deception as result. So how can you get to know your ‘perfect match’ on a more personal level and in a more natural way before getting on a first date?

Gelato: A new way of dating?

Screen shot 2009-09-27 at 9.17.21 PMGelato is a new way of dating that relies on the concept of Friendfeed and uses among others yourFacebook-, Last.FM-, Twitter-, Netflix-, Flickr-, Hulu-, Seesmic– and Amazon-account to give potential matches a good impression of the type of person you are instead of reading a profile that you created especially for the purpose of on-line dating. Updates on social networking sites form a stream of real-time activities on your Gelato account. If you are looking for someone that is also crazy about the new Quentin Tarantino movie ‘Inglorious Bastards’, you can search for users that are Twittering or Facebooking about this.

Screen shot 2009-09-27 at 9.06.47 PMI recently created a profile on Gelato with a little help of Facebook, Twitter and LastFM. Personal information that I have filled in at Facebook is used by Gelato. Personally I found  it an interesting new way of connecting to people with the same interests. Matches were found in no time with a little help of input from Facebook, LastFM and Twitter.

But while researching this some questions came to mind. On different social networks you take different identities. You use Facebook for different purposes than for example LinkedIn or Twitter. And while Twitter shows real time updates it gives a fragmented impression of you. In most cases we have reasons to keep these social networks apart from each other. Facebook is for friends, students among each other and family while for example LinkedIn is for business purposes. When you bring all these networks together, a full impression of someone can be created. So, what effects can these mergers of identities have for the field of on-line dating? Does it enrich your self-representation on dating sites? In what extent can it increase the ‘quality’ of matches created?

Interested in how Gelato works? Check it out for yourself or visit my profile for an impression.

Sources:

[1]
Ellison et al. ‘Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), artikel 2, 2006. <http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue2/ellison.html >

[2]
Toma et al. ‘The Truth about Lying in Online Dating Profiles’. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, 28 april – 3 mei 2007.

[3]
Toma et al. ‘Separating Fact from Fiction: An Examination of Deceptive Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2008.

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