HARVARD STUDY -- Online dating is an undoubtedly popular way to meet potential partners. 11% of Internet users (16 million Americans) have used an online dating website. Online dating websites are highly successful in allowing people to connect with others outside of their existing social circles.
Most online dating sites use a "shopping" interface like that used by other commercial sites, in which commodities – users – are classified by different attributes (e.g., height, weight, income) which can be parsed and sorted in any way the shopper desires. Choosing partners online by sorting them on various attributes lacks the crucial component of real-time interaction so crucial to the acquaintanceship process. We sought to more closely mirror face-to-face interaction, where people get a sense of others – in real time – that is simply not available through standard online dating websites.
In an attempt to bridge this key difference between online and offline dating, we created Virtual Dates, online interactions designed to improve online dating by allowing daters to interact in a virtual environment that mirrors first dates in the real world.
Our research has demonstrated the benefits of adding image content to stimulate conversation. Individuals can like each other more if they are given an opportunity to chat online before chatting in person.
Our results suggest that Virtual Dates cause individuals to develop greater affinity toward one another when they actually meet, in line with other research showing the positive impact of real-time online rapport.
READ THE FULL STUDY