Those of you who know me well likely know I am fascinated by online dating, mainly because I have never done it before and I am afflicted with FOMSS (Fear of Missing Something Syndrome). So here we are at SXSW 2012, where I get to learn about what the online dating terrain looks like, how it’s meshing with new technologies and how it’s influencing the way humans romantically connect. And because journalism is ultimately about connecting with people, the lessons this can teach us about new-new media are in here if you think about it.
THE PREMISE: “Traditionally, dating sites have used algorithms that rely on user profiles and personal preferences to create matches, but what if the information submitted isn’t true? Sites such as Match.com are evolving their methods to provide more accurate results – like pairing algorithms with user behavior. We’ll hear from innovators in the digital dating world and get unique insights from people who’ve searched for love online. We’ll also see how technology is changing the dating game.” – Session desrciption
HOW ONLINE DATING WORKS: Sign up, answer questions, pay a fee and you get matches. Our moderator/tester registered for a slew of sites. Apparently, eHarmony takes the longest compared to Match.com and OKCupid, and takes much much longer than the newer sites (see below). OK Cupid is apparently pretty cool in that their questions are user-generated and their profiles include some data visualizations. And in recent years, various niche dating sites have started up, aimed at the over 50 market (OurTime.c0m), the Jewish market (JDate) and weed smokers (420Dating).
THE AGONY AND THE AWKWARDNESS: Online dating changed the way people interacted with the internet, helping usher in social networking as users became more accustomed to sharing their lives online. But online dating sites seek almost exclusively to match you up, which can be awkward. Match.com’s Mandy Ginsburg:
“They don’t do it because it doesn’t feel natural. They don’t trust that a computer will allow them to find that perfect love or spark, or it feels like it’s not serendipitous so there’s no romance … so how can we make the whole experience as natural as possible?”