The Technology and Science of Online Dating Sites

Internet People

Image: flickr/promiseproductionImage: flickr/promiseproduction

Image: flickr/promiseproduction

Being a married geek is something of a relief — I don’t have to hide my technology and gaming obsessions away from prospective partners. However, reading a friend’s blog post about dating sites today, I was also struck by how social networks and technology can be a great help to those of us back (or still) in the dating game for whatever reason.

These sites not only offer social networking features like Facebook and Twitter but they also provide instant messaging and in some cases even video calling — hopefully with slightly better vetting than Chat Roulette.

But more interesting that the pure technology is the science and psychology behind these site’s success. It makes sense that to genuinely find a suitable partner you need more than an online “little black book.” As my friend discussed in her dating post, the process is as much about getting to know yourself as it is identifying what you want in your perfect partner.

By trying out these different sites I soon gravitated toward the ones that suited me — I just felt more at home at eHarmony and Swoon. But I’m glad I tried out the different options available as I learned a lot about myself — as well as online dating per se.

I’m still hoping for Mr. Right, but at the same time I’m now more aware that finding him isn’t only about getting lucky with the right person. I’ve realized that the best relationships in my life are those I’ve committed to working at with someone else so that we’ve both changed and grown together.

Questionnaires and psychometric profiling can be viewed with suspicion, but actually offer a valuable tool to self-understanding. In fact I am actually thinking of signing up for some of the sites she suggests just to see how I’d be profiled — although I’m not sure my other half would be quite so keen.

Perhaps there is space for a friendship only version of these sites, where you can hook up with people of a similar perspective in your area. I know you could use dating sites for this purpose, but don’t think anyone would really believe you are just looking for friendship. Twitter’s suggested followers seems closest to this. Perhaps we will see a “You’re not connected but you should be” option in Facebook or Google+ before too long.

As well as these site influencing other online offerings, I was also reminded (by the dating post again) that the dating genre of video-games has also been growing fast in recent years. As she put it…

Probably because I haven’t had much luck with relationships, I’ve always enjoying playing games about Dating. It’s actually a growing trend in gaming to either include personal relationships in games, like Mass Effect (360), or to make dating a core element of what you have to do, like Dinner Date (PC).

A lot of the techniques and rhetoric of online dating can be found in these games. It can sounds little off at first I know, but these relationally heavy games are actually some of my favorite experiences — Persona 3 Portable lives constantly in my PSP these days.

I like this aspect of our tech-savvy times: There is more cross-pollination of ideas across different disciplines than ever before. Good ideas flow, and grow, all over the place. As my friend writes, the key to take advantage of all this is “to get yourself in this flow and try new things for yourself.”

[Header Image Credit: Flickr: promiseproduction – Creative Commons Attribution license]

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